Leading Off: Playoff pairings set; Stanton's last licks

Associated Press

A look at what's happening around the majors today:

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THAT'S A WRAP

Even though all 15 games start just after 3 p.m. EDT, the final day of the regular season figures to be a quiet one. With every spot secured and pairings already set, all 10 playoff teams can rest up and prepare for the postseason, which begins Tuesday night with Minnesota at the New York Yankees in the AL wild-card game. Boston clinched consecutive AL East titles for the first time in franchise history Saturday with a 6-3 victory over Houston. Colorado took the last playoff berth when Milwaukee wasted a six-run lead in a 7-6 loss to St. Louis. The Rockies play at division rival Arizona in the NL wild-card game Wednesday.

LAST LICKS

Giancarlo Stanton gets one more shot at hitting his 60th home run when the Marlins host the Braves. Rookie left-hander Max Fried (1-1, 3.74 ERA) starts for Atlanta. Stanton is trying to become the first player to reach the milestone since 2001 when Barry Bonds hit 73 and Sammy Sosa had 64. There have been five players in history to hit at least 60 in a season. Stanton remained at 59 after going 1 for 5 with an RBI single Saturday night during Miami's 10-2 win.

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With slugger Bryce Harper just back from a knee injury, the last thing Washington wants going into the playoffs is to be worrying about Max Scherzer's health. The ace right-hander was pulled from his start Saturday night against Pittsburgh, stumbling on a fourth-inning pitch and leaving with a cramp in his right hamstring. He was sent for a precautionary MRI, a team spokesperson said, and manager Dusty Baker downplayed the severity of the injury. It was Scherzer's final tuneup before the NL East champion Nationals play the Chicago Cubs in a best-of-five Division Series beginning Friday. Scherzer, a top contender for his third Cy Young Award, leads the National League with 268 strikeouts. He is 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA.

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Perhaps outfielder Michael Brantley will get a few more at-bats for the Indians in their regular-season finale against the White Sox. Brantley was activated from the disabled list Saturday, and Cleveland is deciding whether to include him on the roster for its AL Division Series, which starts Thursday at home against the Yankees or Twins. Brantley had been sidelined since Aug. 9 with a right ankle injury. The two-time All-Star pinch-hit and singled sharply off right-hander Carson Fulmer. "I just want to make sure that we're not putting him in a spot that isn't right, so we're going to talk for a little bit," Indians manager Terry Francona said before the game. "He's tried so hard to come back, and believe me, we appreciate what he's trying to do. I just want to talk to him at length because he's got a career ahead of himself." The 30-year-old Brantley was hitting .301 with nine homers and 52 RBIs in 89 games. He missed the postseason last year — and Cleveland's dramatic run to the World Series — after undergoing right shoulder surgery.

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The Astros and Red Sox wrap up the regular season at Fenway Park before beginning an immediate rematch in the ALDS, starting Thursday in Houston. "We're both division champions," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We'll obviously see a lot of each other over the next 10 days." Not surprisingly, both teams plan to hold back top starters Sunday and prep them for the playoff series. Collin McHugh pitches for Houston instead of Dallas Keuchel, who will throw a simulated game. Hector Velazquez goes for the Red Sox in place of ace Chris Sale. "Chris is deserving of a couple of extra days to just get some rest," Boston manager John Farrell said.

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