The Twins remain atop the standings in the American League Central.
Who among them remains standing is another question.
Max Kepler left Sunday's game against the Indians, a 5-2 loss, with upper chest discomfort. Kepler exited after his first at-bat, the second time in less than a week that's left a game with a chest issue after he was removed in the seventh inning of Wednesday's game against the Red Sox.
Kepler will undergo an MRI in Minneapolis on Monday, after which he and the Twins will know more.
"It's concerning,” Kepler said after the game. “But tomorrow, we're going to do some scans, and we'll see from there."
With rosters expanded teams have less incentive to place players on the injured list, further muddying Kepler's outlook for fantasy players. The Twins could very well keep the 26-year-old active even if he does miss numerous games over the season's final three weeks.
Any amount of time lost to injury would be hurtful to fantasy players, as Kepler's step forward this year has been as notable as any. The outfielder has clubbed 36 homers with 90 RBI and 96 runs scored in 133 games, hitting .252/.337/.522 atop the Twins lineup.
Replacing him won't be easy for the Twins, either. Along with Kepler, Byron Buxton, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Cave, Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano are all varying degrees of banged up, with none playing in Sunday's series finale. Instead, the Twins leaned on guys like Luis Arraez, Ehire Adrianza and LaMonte Wade Jr. in a matchup with the team chasing them in the standings.
Fantasy players should monitor reports on Kepler's MRI Monday before deciding what to do about him. Here's to hoping we get some clarity, one way or the other.
Glasnow Brings Heat in Return To Mound
No strangers to the opener, the Rays had an especially potent one start for them Sunday.
Tyler Glasnow, making his first start since May 10, threw two innings in Sunday's win over the Blue Jays, allowing two runs while striking out five of his nine batters faced. Glasnow struck out the side in the first inning before issuing a pair of walks, and a two-run Randal Grichuk homer, in the second.
The hard-throwing right-hander's second pitch of the afternoon clocked in at 100.2 mph, and he was hitting 97 mph and above routinely throughout his two innings. Glasnow threw 41 pitches before exiting.
“Glasnow came out and set the tone. That was impressive in the first inning,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “The ball was coming out of his hand and he threw strikes for the most part. Really, really big step in the right direction for us as far as he is concerned.”
The 26-year-old was one of the biggest breakout stars of the season's first month-plus of games, posting a 1.86 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with 55 strikeouts in his first 48 1/3 innings. He went 6-0 in his first seven starts and only suffered his first loss on May 10, which was also his worst start up to that point.
The loss wasn't the only thing he suffered. Glasnow sustained a mild right forearm strain in the outing and hit the shelf, remaining there until Sunday. Nearly four months later, he showed few ill effects of the injury.
Now healthy, Glasnow will continue to get stretched out over the season's final three weeks. He may not get to a point where he's turning in quality starts -- although he may, too -- but given his strikeout ability and the Rays' creativity in using their pitchers, Glasnow is still an advisable start for fantasy players going forward. Any wins picked up along the way are just gravy.
Luzardo, Cueto Set for Debuts
Glasnow made his long-awaited return Sunday.
Two bay area pitchers are set for debuts of different kinds this week as well.
Johnny Cueto and Jesus Luzardo are both expected to make their first starts of 2019 at some point this week. Cueto, who's been out all season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer, will make his season debut Tuesday against the Pirates, while top prospect Luzardo is reportedly being called up by the A's for the start of Monday's series against the Astros.
Cueto was terrific in nine starts for the Giants in 2018, posting a 3.23 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 53 innings, before requiring the surgery. In recent weeks Cueto made six rehab starts in the Giants' minor league system, owning a 3.38 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with 21 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings.
“I think sitting here watching these games, he was eager to get out and pitch here,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “With how intense these games are, you can tell he really misses it and he wished he could have pitched here.”
Like Cueto, Luzardo's season was also compromised by injury. The 21-year-old was believed to be a favorite to win a rotation spot with the A's out of spring training but a left shoulder injury put him out of the running, and a Grade 2 lat strain in July pushed his timetable back even further.
When healthy the southpaw posted a 2.51 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 57/8 K/BB ratio over 43 innings in the minors, and he's among the most talented minor leaguers not yet on a major league roster. Not short on rotation options and with eyes on a postseason spot, it's not clear how the A's might use Luzardo down the stretch but, like Glasnow, as long as he's on a major league mound he's worth deploying in fantasy for his raw talent.
National League Quick Hits: Bryce Harper (hand) remained out of the Phillies' lineup Sunday. Harper was hit by a pitch in the right hand Friday and has now missed two straight starts. He was able to pinch-hit Sunday, and the hope is that he'll be ready to start Monday ... Ryan Braun (back) was in the Brewers' lineup Sunday. Braun didn't start Saturday's game, as he's been battling a back issue recently. He went 1-for-3 with an RBI double and a run scored in Sunday's win over the Cubs. ... Jack Flaherty struck out 10 Pirates hitters over eight scoreless innings in a 2-0 shutout Sunday. As he's been for most of the season's second half, Flaherty was in complete control Sunday. He did most of his heavy lifting with his fastball, with nine of his 10 strikeouts coming by way of the heater. As noted, he's been absolutely incredible since the All-Star break, going 6-1 with a 0.76 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 89 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings. His pedestrian first half will probably preclude him from taking home any hardware this fall, but the 23-year-old is pitching as well as anyone right now. The Brewers will try to solve Flaherty when the two sides meet Saturday. ... Addison Russell was removed from Sunday's game against the Brewers after being hit in the head by a pitch. Russell initially remained in the game after being hit by the Adrian Houser offering but was lifted a half-inning later. After the game he was diagnosed with a nasal bruise and was being evaluated for concussion symptoms. He's day to day. ... Eugenio Suarez went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers, including a game-tying solo shot, to lead the Reds to a 4-3 victory over the Diamondbacks on Sunday. It was his third multi-homer effort of the year. He’s gone deep a whopping 10 times over his last 14 games dating back to August 25. The 28-year-old third baseman is arguably the most underrated elite power hitter in the major-leagues and is only one homer shy of Mike Trout and Pete Alonso for the big-lead league this season. He owns a stellar .269/.346/.568 triple-slash line with 81 runs scored, a career-high 44 home runs, 95 RBI and three stolen bases in 586 plate appearances. ... Sandy Alcantara fired a complete-game, four-hit shutout against the Royals on Sunday. Alcantara matched a season-high with eight strikeouts and only walked two batters in a dominant performance. It was his second complete-game shutout this season. He owns a solid 4.04 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 131/78 K/BB ratio across 171 2/3 innings this season. There’s some legitimate streaming appeal in mixed leagues when he faces the Giants in San Francisco on Friday.
American League Quick Hits: Gerrit Cole struck out 15 Mariners hitters while allowing just one hit, and one run, over eight innings in a 21-1 win Sunday. With the huge game Cole padded his already league-leading strikeout total, pushing it to 281 strikeouts in 184 1/3 innings. There just aren't many pitchers throwing like the 28-year-old is, even if one of the few, Justin Verlander, is on his own team. Cole is 16-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 0.92 WHIP heading into Friday's start against the Royals. ... Mike Trout (toe) was scratched from the Angels' lineup Sunday. Trout had been set to return from a one-game absence due to a sore toe on his right foot, but he's evidently not quite ready yet. Assuming it's nothing more than soreness, he should be back in there sooner than later. ... Yordan Alvarez had a monster day Sunday, going 4-for-6 with six RBI and a run scored in Sunday's win over the Mariners. That it wasn't even a record-setting day for the 22-year-old - he had seven RBI in a three-homer game on August 10 - speaks to the kind of debut season Alvarez has had in Houston. Through Sunday, he's hitting .314/.409/.655 with 22 homers, 70 RBI and 48 runs scored in 70 games overall. ... George Springer (concussion) returned to the Astros' lineup Sunday. Springer missed three starts after suffering a mild concussion following a collision with the outfield wall. He was among the Astros hitters who had big games on Sunday, too, homering and driving in four runs in a lopsided victory over the Mariners ... Carlos Correa (back) took batting practice on Sunday. Correa had been hitting in the cage without issue and progressed to on-field hitting Sunday. The shortstop said that his back is "feeling great" and he's "one step closer" to returning. Correa noted that he could have a short rehab assignment, depending on whether Triple-A Round Rock is still playing when he's game-ready. ... Yankees activated 3B Gio Urshela from the 10-day injured list. Urshela has been out of commission since late August with a left groin strain but has been working out lately with no problems. He didn't start Sunday night's game against the Red Sox but came in as a defensive replacement and went hitless in one at-bat. He should be back in the starting lineup as soon as Monday. ... Mitch Haniger (groin, back) is unlikely to return this season. A second opinion on Haniger's ailing back confirmed the initial diagnosis of inflammation, but it's not clear when he might work out again. Haniger has missed over three months of action at this point due to a ruptured testicle and back problem and at this point he's just running out of time. ... Sean Manaea punched out 10 batters while firing seven innings of one-run baseball to beat the Tigers 3-1 on Sunday. His only mistake led to a solo homer by Christin Stewart in the fifth inning. Other than that he was nearly spotless. He gave up just two hits and two walks in the gem outing. Manaea has been superb in both of his two starts since coming off the injured list last week. He missed nearly the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He's allowed one run through 12 innings so far and should be quickly picked up in any leagues where he is still available. ... Kevin Kiermaier departed Sunday's game versus the Blue Jays due to neck spasms. It should be a day-to-day situation, but the Rays could have more on the outfielder's status after the game. Kiermaier didn't have a hit but scored a run before exiting.