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This Week in Sports

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning Monday, July 9, 2018 in St. Petersburg, Fla. (Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)

Welcome to another weekly roundup in the world of sports. This week, the dog-days of summer are in full swing. With the NHL and NBA having most of their big names signed and/or traded and the NFL not quite yet to pre-season, the eyes of the sports world shift solely to baseball. There are just over two months left in the regular season but the trade deadline is tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET. The Cubs and Yankees have each landed arms to add to their staff while the Rays’ Chris Archer is rumored to be a likely acquisition for a contender.

Major League Baseball

Many have felt the National League is a two-team race this year between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. With the Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Machado, the Cubs had to make a move to keep up in the rat race. Enter Cole Hamels. The Cubs acquired the lefty from the Texas Rangers for minor league prospects. Hamels currently has a 4.72 ERA, but the Cubs are optimistic a change in scenery for him will help that number come down. Hamels has proven in the past what he can do in the postseason by leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a World Series victory in 2008 and being named the MVP of the series.

The Cubs currently hold a one and a half game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. Chicago has been mediocre as of late going 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Brewers have gained some ground in the division lately winning six of their last 10 games and have hopes that newly acquired infielder, Mike Moustakas can help them at the plate. Milwaukee currently holds the first wild card spot with a game and a half lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks. This division was a two-team race a few weeks ago, but the recent emergence of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have won 15 of their last 19 games and the St. Louis Cardinals hanging around, there’s now four viable teams in the division. The Pirates and Cardinals still have a ways to climb if they want to challenge the Cubs and Brewers for the division title, but both teams are within grasp of a wild card spot.

The Atlanta Braves have been in a downward spiral the past week losing four straight and five of their last six games. Yesterday however, the Braves got a big win against the Dodgers. Sean Newcomb took the mound for Atlanta on Sunday and had everything working. Through eight innings, he had a no-hitter going. Newcomb was trying to become the first Braves pitcher to toss a no-no since Kent Mercker no-hit the Dodgers in 1994. With two outs and two strikes in the ninth, Dodgers’ shortstop, Chris Taylor hit a double to end the no-hit bid. Newcomb threw 134 pitches and was lifted after allowing the two-out double. Dan Winkler came in to relieve Newcomb and allowed an RBI single to Manny Machado. Newcomb was credited with the earned run but picked up the win which was his 10th of the year.

With this win, the Braves move a game and a half behind the NL East leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have dropped three games in a row but remain in first place. The Braves are also a game and a half out of a wild card spot in the National League. The Washington Nationals still can’t figure things out and with the trade deadline tomorrow, it remains to be seen if they will be sellers or stay put with what they have. They’re currently a game under .500 and are six back of the Phillies in the NL East and are also six games out of a wild card spot.

The Dodgers landed their big name via trade over the MLB All-Star break by acquiring the much sought after Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles. The Machado trade made the Dodgers the favorite to come out of the National League in the eyes of many experts. It appears though that somebody forgot to tell the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. Both teams are riding modest win streaks (Arizona three, Colorado four) and are right on the heels of the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks are a half game out of first place and currently hold the second wild card spot behind the Brewers. The Rockies are one of the hottest teams in baseball winning 15 of their last 21 games. They are a game out of first in the division and are just a half game back of Arizona for the second wild card spot.

The New York Yankees have the second best record in the Major Leagues. The only problem with that? The team with the best record is the Boston Red Sox. Boston has a five and a half game lead on the Yankees right now and the Yankees just got hit with a major injury. Yankees’ star outfielder, Aaron Judge will miss four to five weeks with a chip fracture in his right wrist (ulnar styloid bone) after being hit by a pitch in the first inning of Thursday’s game. The Yankees surmise that Judge will not be able to swing a bat in a live game for at least three weeks. In the meantime, the Yankees have called up Tyler Wade from their Triple-A affiliate to replace Judge on the roster.

The Yankees made moves before the trade deadline to bolster their pitching staff and help them gain ground on the Red Sox. J.A. Happ assumed he would get moved before the deadline but was nervous where he would end up. It turned out he would stay in the AL East. The Yankees acquired him from the Toronto Blue Jays just days after acquiring Zach Britton from another AL East foe in the Baltimore Orioles. Both pitchers have already made contributions to the team with Britton making his debut out of the bullpen on Thursday and Happ getting the start on Sunday. Happ went six innings allowing only three hits and one run on 96 pitches. It was his first win of what the Yankees hope is many wins in the pinstriped uniform. One AL East pitcher who has yet to be moved is Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s under contract through the 2021 season and will likely have a hefty price tag for any team that wants to snag him. Archer is the biggest name left of players who have been rumored to be on the trading block.

Not much excitement has come out of the AL Central as of late. The Cleveland Indians hold a commanding lead in the division. Their nine game lead over the Minnesota Twins continues to be the largest lead of any division leader in baseball. They’re currently 10 games over .500 and with the Twins and Detroit Tigers both reeling, Cleveland hasn’t had to look over their shoulder that often. The Indians haven’t made any major moves as of yet and with just over 24 hours until the trade deadline, they’re running out of time if they want to add any pieces for the final push.

The Houston Astros arguably have the most complete roster in all of baseball. Even after placing Jose Altuve on the 10-day disabled list, they still have enough star power to keep up their pace in the AL West. Like the Indians, they have yet to make any big moves ahead of tomorrow’s trade deadline. The Astros are one team that probably doesn’t need to make any moves as they’re currently fielding basically the same team that won the World Series last year. But, the Astros are currently on a four-game skid and have lost six of their last 10 games.

The two teams chasing the Astros are two of the biggest surprises in baseball this year. Even after losing Robinson Cano to an 80-game PED (performance enhancing drugs) suspension, the Seattle Mariners have persevered through the turmoil and are only four games back of the Astros. Like the Astros, the Mariners have also lost six of their last 10 games. They currently hold the second wild card spot in the American League five and half games back of the Yankees for the first wild card spot. The Oakland A’s are also right in the thick of things out west. Six games behind the Astros for first place, the A’s have lost three straight games but have won six of their last 10 games. They’re only two games behind their division rival Mariners for the second wild card spot. Unlike the National League which has eight teams in contention for the two wild card spots, the American League only has three teams vying for the two wild card spots. It’s possible that both the Mariners and A’s could get in to the playoffs, but with the Yankees having a comfortable lead in the first spot, odds are only one of these AL West teams will make it to the one-game wild card playoff.

ESPN’s top five power rankings

1. Houston Astros (67-40)
2. Boston Red Sox (74-33)
3. New York Yankees (67-37)
4. Chicago Cubs (61-44)
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (59-47)

The Collegiate’s top five power rankings

1. Boston Red Sox (74-33)
2. Houston Astros (67-40)
3. New York Yankees (67-37)
4. Chicago Cubs (61-44)
5. Milwaukee Brewers (61-47)

West Michigan Whitecaps

The West Michigan Whitecaps had a rough start to the week but finished out with a strong weekend.

The week started with the final game of a three-game road series with the Quad Cities River Bandits. Trying to win the rubber match on Monday, July 23, the Whitecaps dropped the last game of the series 7-4 and dropped two out three games in the series.

After an off day on Tuesday, the Whitecaps returned home to host the Lake County Captains for a three-game series. The first two games of the series saw the Whitecaps lose a pair of pitching duels. On Wednesday, the Captains shutout West Michigan 1-0. The next night, the Captains pitching staff had an encore performance and pitched another shutout, this time by a score of 2-0. Looking for revenge on Friday, the Whitecaps finally got some runs on the board against Lake County and avoided being swept by winning the final game of the series 5-4.

On Saturday, the Cubs of South Bend made their way into Fifth Third Ballpark for a four-game series. The Whitecaps’ pitching staff continued their dominance and allowed the Cubs to only plate one run in a 5-1 victory. Yesterday, the West Michigan pitching staff did one better and tossed a shutout over the Cubs. The Whitecaps won the game 3-0 to take the first two games of the four-game series. The Whitecaps will try to build on their three-game winning streak when they host the Cubs tonight at 7:05 p.m. Overall for the week, the Whitecaps went 3-3 and are currently sitting in seventh place with a record of 16-19. Despite being in seventh place and three games below .500, the Whitecaps are only four and a half games behind the first place Bowling Green Hot Rods.

The Whitecaps will finish off their series with the Cubs tomorrow before heading out on the road for a quick three-game series with the last place Great Lakes Loons. On Saturday, the Whitecaps will return home to host the Dayton Dragons for a three-game series at Fifth Third Ballpark. For tickets to upcoming games, click here.


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