MLB Team of the Week: Jay Bruce, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano Star
Normally, we'd open the final Bleacher Report MLB Team of the Week with a quip or amusing anecdote.
But this was the week we lost Jose Fernandez, one of baseball's brightest young talents, and we're not in a quippy mood.
Still, plenty of players did impressive things as the playoff races wrapped up or came down to the wire.
Here are 10 guys—one per position, including a starting pitcher and designated hitter—who busted box scores over the past seven days.
To qualify, a player needs to have made at least two starts at the position in question, or one in the case of pitchers. And, as ever, while this is mostly about individual output, we award bonus points for gaudy stats that translated to ticks in the win column.
You may proceed when ready.
Catcher: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are hanging in the National League wild-card race, thanks in no small part to their veteran backstop.
The headlines fixated on his controversial game-winning hit Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds, which kept St. Louis one game behind the San Francisco Giants for the NL's second WC slot.
"I just kept my head down and kept running," Molina said of the walk-off knock, which replays revealed should have been a non-scoring ground-rule double, per the Associated Press (h/t FoxSports.com). "I didn't really hear or see anything."
Here's what we saw: An 11-for-25 week with four doubles, a home run and eight RBI. No video review needed on that.
Honorable Mention: Evan Gattis (HOU): 6-for-18, 2 HR, 3 RBI
First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
Despite a 3-3 week, the Detroit Tigers sit just a half-game off the second American League wild-card spot.
Lob some credit at Miguel Cabrera, who went 12-for-24 (a .500 average for those keeping score at home) with a double, four home runs and 14 RBI.
"For him, it's pretty normal," manager Brad Ausmus said after Cabrera went deep twice in a pivotal 6-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on Friday, per MLB.com's Jason Beck and Mark Bowman. "He's a standard offensively that few have ever equaled in the history of the game."
Honorable Mention: Joey Votto (CIN): 11-for-27, 3 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBI
Second Base: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
Time is running out for the Seattle Mariners, who won 5-1 Friday over the Oakland A's but remain a game off the wild-card pace with just two left to play.
Robinson Cano, meanwhile, is hitting like a man who wants to charge deep into October.
While the M's went 5-2, Cano went 10-for-29 with three doubles, five home runs and eight RBI.
"He seems more clutch than he used to be, too," 710 ESPN Seattle's Jim Moore opined (via Eric Mandel). "I'm sure the Yankee fans would say he was always clutch in New York, but early on with the Mariners I didn't feel like he came through in the big moments. Certainly that's not the case this year."
Honorable Mention: Ian Kinsler (DET): 14-for-26, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI
Third Base: Ryon Healy, Oakland A's
In a wholly forgettable season for the A's, Ryon Healy has defined memorable.
The 24-year-old rookie had himself a week, going 11-for-27 with four doubles, two home runs, five RBI and five runs scored.
More essentially, as Nate Aderhold of Today's Knuckleball pointed out, the 2013 third-round pick is helping Oakland boosters "finally look past the [Josh] Donaldson trade to a brighter future that involves someone else manning the hot corner."
Honorable Mention: Nolan Arenado (COL): 8-for-20, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
Yes, we're awarding gutsy hero bonus points.
On Sept. 20, Brandon Crawford dislocated his pinkie on an awkward slide into third base against the Dodgers. It was worth wondering what, if anything, he could give the Giants as they battled for their postseason lives.
Turns out, he could give quite a bit.
Since returning to action Sunday, Crawford has gone 9-for-19 with two triples and three RBI. Not coincidentally, the struggling Giants went 4-2 to remain a game up on St. Louis for the second NL wild-card spot.
Honorable Mention: Elvis Andrus (TEX): 9-for-18, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Left Field: Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
After a dismal start to his Tigers tenure, Justin Upton has become a Team of the Week staple.
He earned another nod this week with 10 knocks in 22 at-bats, including three doubles and three homers.
In mid-August, Ausmus gave a scuffling Upton a few days off to work in the cage with the Tigers coaches.
"No one, including Upton, can point to a single adjustment that led to a nearly instant turnaround," wrote Lynn Henning of the Detroit News.
Here's what we know: The turnaround happened. And the wild-card-hunting Tigers will take it.
Honorable Mention: Adam Duvall (CIN): 10-for-31, 3 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI
Center Field: Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
On a Washington Nationals team beset by maladies, Trea Turner is a speedy beacon of hope.
The Nats clinched the NL East this week but also lost catcher Wilson Ramos to a busted ACL, which compounded lingering injuries to second baseman Daniel Murphy and right-hander Stephen Strasburg, among others.
None of that slowed Turner, who went 9-for-26 with a double, a triple and four stolen bases.
He won't win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, which rightly belongs to Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. But Turner has at least made a case after a scant 71 games, as the Washington Post's Barry Svrluga pointed out.
Honorable Mention: Cameron Maybin (DET): 10-for-26, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI
Right Field: Jay Bruce, New York Mets
For the second straight season, the New York Mets are getting a boost from a trade-deadline bat.
Last year, it was Yoenis Cespedes. Now, it's Jay Bruce.
Over the past week, Bruce—whom the Mets acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at the Aug. 1 trade deadline—tallied 10 hits in 20 at-bats with a double, four home runs and eight RBI.
And the Mets, despite the ailments that have plagued their starting rotation, hold the NL's No. 1 wild-card position.
"We knew when we got him if he could start swinging the bat he’d change our lineup," manager Terry Collins said of Bruce, per Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. "And he does."
Honorable Mention: Kole Calhoun (LAA): 11-for-20, 5 2B, 3B, HR, 5 RBI
Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners
Robinson Cano wasn't the only veteran Seattle swinger keeping the M's afloat this week.
Nelson Cruz chipped in with 11 hits in 27 at-bats, including a double and four home runs to go along with seven RBI.
All that while dealing with a sore left wrist, per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.
"I still have my strength," Cruz said Sunday after homering twice against the Minnesota Twins in a 4-3 win, per Divish. "It just hurts."
Honorable Mention: Kendrys Morales (KC): 8-for-23, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI
Pitcher: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Last year, as the Rangers charged into the postseason, Yu Darvish was recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Now, a year later, he pitched Texas to a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays that guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the 2016 playoffs.
In that pivotal game Friday, Darvish racked up a season-high 12 strikeouts. Overall this week, the Japanese right-hander went 2-0 with 21 strikeouts, two walks, five hits and one earned run allowed in 13 frames.
"Really explosive stuff," manager Jeff Banister said, per Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. "He has been on an upward trend. I think there is another step for him, another gear."
As the Rangers look to tear through a wide-open AL, they can only hope.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Rodon (CWS): 2-0, 14 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 21 SO