Welcome back to The Rotation! Here's a starting five of topics worth bantering about in Major League Baseball this week.
1. CC rider
Peruse the career strikeout leaders list and there, at 20th overall, is CC Sabathia, with 2,803.
He's tied with some guy named Cy Young.
"That name throws me off a little bit," Sabathia said with a laugh. "But it's cool. It just means I'm old."
Sabathia's at an age and stage when there are lots of cool notes attached to his numbers. His start against the Tigers last week didn't go particularly well, but it was the 500th start of Sabathia's career. Among active pitchers, only Bartolo Colon, who just threw a complete-game win at 44 years and 72 days old, has made more (517). But unlike Colon and so many others who kept pitching in the bigs deep into their 30s, every appearance of Sabathia's career has been a start.
"I'm proud of that, for sure," Sabathia said. "Because I consider myself a starter. I'm willing to go down to the bullpen in certain situations, but I'm a starter."
The Yankees, after adding Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia in advance of last week's non-waiver Trade Deadline, had six starters, but are now shifting back to five after sending young Jordan Montgomery down to Triple-A (he'll likely be back up when rosters expand, at the very latest). That means Sabathia's rotation spot seems solid, but when you're 37 and in the final year of your contract, as Sabathia is, you constantly have to validate your time and your turn. That will be the case when the veteran makes Tuesday's start in Toronto.
On measure, though, Sabathia has used a more cutter-heavy repertoire to turn the legitimate question marks that accompanied his entry into 2017 into a respectable 121 ERA+ in 99 1/3 innings over 18 starts. That he's been a relevant arm on a contending club is something that would have been pretty darn difficult to assume going into the season.
Just don't expect him to pitch as long as Colon.
"Pitch 'til I'm 45?" he said. "No chance. My kids are getting old, man. I won't be holding on for that long."
But he will pass Cy Young in strikeouts.
No matter the composition of the Yankees' rotation, after a rough patch for the bats, they need to have more days like Sunday, when they posted eight runs against the Indians. Because the Red Sox appear to have found their footing of late, winning six straight and seven of eight, with three walkoff wins (including that epic tilt against the Tribe last Tuesday) along the way.
Four offensive keys to Boston's recent run:
• The baby-faced Rafael Devers, who had just 322 at-bats above the Class A level when the Red Sox promoted him two weeks ago, has had a near-seamless transition to the bigs, batting .387/.457/.613.
• Mitch Moreland, who kinda/sorta "replaced" David Ortiz last winter, really has been Big Papi-like of late, with a 1.033 OPS in his last 31 trips to the plate.
• Eduardo Nunez has been one of the Deadline's most impactful pickups so far, contributing .400/.429/.800 slash at a time when Dustin Pedroia got hurt.
• Christian Vazquez not only turned his fourth career home run into a walkoff winner but has slashed .481/.500/.778 in his last 28 plate appearances.
The Red Sox are an AL-best 36-20 at home, but this week, they'll face their two main opponents in the AL East race away from Fenway. They've got a two-game set in Tampa Bay beginning Tuesday, and then it's a weekend date in the Bronx with their renewed rivals. Boston has aligned Chris Sale's schedule so that he'll face the Yanks in all three remaining series, including next Sunday's series finale. Genius!
3. Catching on
Usually when a catcher gets a day off, as Vazquez did Sunday, it's viewed as a necessary break for his body and his brain, because that position will beat a man up more than any other can.
But when Joe Maddon gave his starting catcher Willson Contreras, the "day off" from catching Saturday to get the newly acquired Alex Avila in the lineup, he put Contreras in left field. That's how valuable this young man's bat has become to the Cubs' lineup, and the 25-year-old kid they call "Killer" in the Cubs' clubhouse has shown he can handle the rigors of his regular position while swinging a big stick (.349 average and 1.151 OPS since the start of July).
"I've never had that much energy," the 30-year-old Avila told reporters with a grin.
Kyle Schwarber was supposed to be the guy whose offensive input in his first full season in the big leagues takes the offensive pressure off Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. But while Schwarber has shown signs of OBP optimism since his brief banishment to Triple-A, it is Contreras who has provided protection and production and seized the cleanup spot for a Cubs team still trying to fend off the Brewers in the NL Central.
On the weekly Twitter show, "The Dugout," that airs on Wednesdays, we did a poll last week asking fans to vote on the team that most improved itself at the Trade Deadline. With all due respect to those who took part, I did have to laugh at the Dodgers running away with the vote.
After all, the Dodgers were already on a 114-win pace before the Deadline. So … maybe the acquisitions of Yu Darvish and the Tonys (Watson and Cingrani) put them on a 116-win pace?
Of course, the World Series is the goal and, I'm sure, the spirit behind that voting. Pinball game that the postseason is, it's impossible to know if the Dodgers will be as great in October as they've been in the regular season. None of what's happened here so far may matter, but that shouldn't prevent us from pausing to appreciate just how crazy-good this club has been.
The Dodgers entered their Sunday night game against the Mets with 43 wins in their last 50 games -- the first team since the 1912 Giants (who, by the way, lost the World Series) to have such a stretch. What's telling about that 50-game run is that it included eight different starting pitchers and there was a transaction involving the Major League roster roughly once every other day. This is a roster in constant churn, but it hasn't prevented the Dodgers from churning out the wins at a ridiculous rate.
Again, if they don't win the World Series, this is all a historical footnote. But the Dodgers do have a shot at the 116-win mark reached by the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners. Only 22 of their final 54 regular-season games are against clubs with a winning record.
5. Over Yonder
Because a Wild Card berth would mean even more for their organization than it does for many others, it would have been fun to see the Mariners, who haven't reached the postseason since 2001, make a swap for Sonny Gray at the Trade Deadline. But given the resources at hand on the farm and the realities of the roster, it was never especially realistic that such a splash would occur.
But of course, just because Dealin' Jerry Dipoto had to sit on the sidelines on Deadline Day doesn't mean he was done dealin'! The man who kept the transaction wire hopping all winter swung a swap Sunday for first baseman Yonder Alonso, whose production pace has slowed considerably after a sizzling start to the season, but who ought to be an upgrade against right-handed production from the anemic production the M's were getting from Danny Valencia in that split (.256/.300/.389).
The fact that some sub-.500 teams are still very much mathematically live in the AL Wild Card race means it's not necessarily as interesting as some others. But the M's bid to end their organizational drought is definitely of interest, and it's good to see Dipoto continuing to leave no stone unturned, even as injury adversity like Felix Hernandez's latest DL stint keeps cropping up. Alonso likely presents only an incremental upgrade, but in a race this complex, every little bit counts.
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.