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Three Strikes: Gary Sanchez makes history; Mets try to move past injuries

Gary Sanchez continues to make AL Rookie of the Year case as the Mets stay alive despite their pitching injuries. Also, is this the year Cleveland wins it all?

The MLB season continues to wind down, but there is still plenty of intrigue in every division. Here are three things that stood out on Wednesday.

The Sanchize

Once upon a time, the hopes of New York rested on Mark Sanchez’s shoulder. The “Sanchize” as the then-Jets quarterback was called.

No longer. Nowadays, the only Sanchize in New York plays catcher in the Bronx. Gary Sanchez is so good that, even in 45 games, he might be leading the AL Rookie of the Year race.

Sanchez, as he is wont to do, made history. After hitting a three-run homer in the second inning, he added a solo shot in the sixth to become the fastest player ever to reach that number in the modern era. The last to do it was Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves with 19 in 51 games.

New York won 11–5 to move within 2 1/2 games of Baltimore for the second wild-card spot.

The concern in New York is that Sanchez is a one-hit wonder, like Shane Spencer or Kevin Maas before him. But Yankees fans can take heart with Berger’s story. He played 11 seasons with three teams, and hit .300 with 242 homers and 898 RBI. How did he spend his post-baseball life? As a scout for the Yankees, of course. Somewhere, Berger, who died in 1988 at 83, is smiling.

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Harvey, deGrom Who?

If at the beginning of the season, someone was to say that, on Sept. 21st, the Mets would lose Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom to season-ending injuries, have Steven Matz in and out of the lineup and would still be in playoff position? Well, they would’ve been crazy. Simple as that.

Instead, the Mets have found quality pitching performances in unexpected places. Bartolo Colon—who entered tonight with a 3.14 ERA and 116 strikeouts—pitched 6.2 innings Wednesday, giving up just two runs and six hits against the Braves.  That they lost 4–3 to Atlanta—Ender Inciarte robbed Yoenis Cespedes of a game-winning homer—is not a reflection on Colon.

Robert Gsellman, a 23-year-old rookie, has a 3.13 ERA. Seth Lugo, 26, has a 2.35 ERA and has won his last five starts. It’s not the big three, but with Noah Syndergaard and Colon, the Mets rotation is formidable enough to make a run.

The Mets cannot make the World Series the same way they did last year. Harvey and deGrom are overpowering pitchers with electric stuff. Gsellman and Lugo have a ways to go before they hit that level. But that they are contending and are in a position to make another October run, speaks to the job that Terry Collins has done as manager, and the way in which Sandy Alderson has built the team. When in doubt, get more pitching. And then get some more.

Mets have no choice but to adjust after Jacob deGrom goes down for the season

Party Again?

There’s no Cubs-like team in the AL, no team that has clearly separated itself from the pack. The three division leaders—the Red Sox, Indians and Rangers—are within three games of each other. The Red Sox and Indians won Wednesday. Texas lost to the Angels.

Much attention is being paid on the Red Sox with that guy Ortiz retiring and the Rangers which made two big deals at the deadline. But let’s not discount the Indians. The Indians, 4–3 winners Wednesday night over the Royals, have the best bullpen in baseball. Last Saturday against Detroit, the Indians set a major league record by using nine pitchers to combine for a shutout and 1–0 win in 10 innings. Only two pitchers pitched more than an inning. The closer Andrew Miller, threw two scoreless. Miller, their big deadline acquisition, has a 1.85 ERA with Cleveland and is also 3–0.

On offense, the Indians are getting great seasons from Francisco Lindor (.309 average), Jose Ramirez (.311) and Tyler Naquin (.300). Lonnie Chisenhall has had a bounce-back year, and Mike Napoli is providing the power. Even though they lost Carlos Carrasco to a season-ending right hand injury on Saturday, the Indians have plenty of rotation depth with Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin.

It’s been a great year for the city of Cleveland and perhaps another title is pushing it a bit much. But hey, if LeBron can do it, why can’t Miller and the rest of the Indians?