Last rankings in parentheses:
1. St. Louis (1): Cards manager Mike Matheny plays Randal Grichuk in center field Wednesday. One drawback: Grichuk can’t throw well because of a bad elbow and has to lateral the ball to right fielder Jason Heyward. One more reason Tony La Russa was smarter than the average manager: he would have known enough to put Grichuk in left, as Gene Mauch once did with a Richie Allen. Come to think of it, Grady Little would, too.
2. Toronto (2): Pitcher Mark Buehrle, struggling with a bad shoulder, returns to Toronto to get a cortisone shot. “Take your car in to get the oil changed,” Buehrle said. “Get the bearings lubed up.” While they have the hood up, he might have wanted them to look at the acceleration, given a fastball that rarely exceeds 85 mph.
3. Kansas City (3): Royals make it through the week without a bench-clearing brawl. That might be a first.
4. N.Y. Mets (5): New York man charged with fraud after allegedly trying to fool investors, in part by forging Mets owner Jeff Wilpon’s signature. Defendant has a suite at Citi Field; it’s a good guess service won’t be attentive during the postseason.
5. Pittsburgh (4): Pirates trail Cardinals by four-and-a-half games in NL Central, thanks to seven straight losses to the Brewers, who begin play Friday 26 games out of first.
6. L.A. Dodgers (6): Scratched from his start Wednesday, Mat Latos was unhappy Thursday, refusing to talk to media. Yo, Mat. You think the Dodgers are thrilled with the 6.56 ERA you’ve put up for them?
7. Chicago Cubs (9): After almost a decade in the AL East, Cubs manager Joe Maddon says the NL Central “(is) the only place to be, man.” He didn’t say anything so praiseworthy about third place, which is where the Cubs sit, despite an 80-58 record entering play Friday, the fourth-best in MLB.
8. Houston (7): Who has more triples, Evan Gattis or Dee Gordon? Trick question, of course. It’s Gattis by 9-8. It’d be easier to explain how a curveball works than to explain how Gattis has out-tripled Gordon.
9. N.Y. Yankees (8): Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay offered to pay a month of his co-host’s mortgage if Alex Rodriguez appeared on the show. Thursday A-Rod called in from his car after the game was rained out. No word on whether the co-host will mimic Kay’s home run call and shout “see ya” when the check clears.
10. Texas (10): Prince Fielder has just 13 extra-base hits in last 223 at-bats. Or to put it another way, since July 1 he’s being otuslugged by shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has 16 extra-base hits in his last 220 at-bats.
11. San Francisco (11): Tim Hudson beats D’backs 6-2 on Wednesday, throws four-hitter over six innings and homers off Chase Anderson, becoming first 40-year-old pitcher to do so, according to Giants, since Woody Williams. Oldest pitcher to homer, according to mlb.com, was Jack Quinn at 46 with the Philadelphia A’s in 1930. It’s doubtful Hudson will stick around to match that record, though Quinn pitched on — homerless — until he was 49, an old-time Julio Franco.
12. Minnesota (12): Torii Hunter made a star of the team’s batboy, filming him celebrating a win by dancing to “Hit the Quan” and posting it to Instagram. Going to guess the song is not named after Paul Quantrill, who, given his career .767 OPS against, didn’t evoke celebrations when hit.
13. Washington (13): Since Nats acquired Jonathon Papelbon, Drew Storen, moved from closer to setup, has set up the Nats for disaster: 18.2 innings, 16 runs, three homers, seven walks, 6.75 ERA and three blown saves.
14. L.A. Angels (14): Angels use nine pitchers in a nine-inning game Monday, starter Nick Tropeano, who goes 4.1, and then seven relievers getting one or two outs until Cam Bedrosian throws a 1-2-3 ninth. Who knew Bedrosian, with a 5.33 ERA and .869 OPS against, was the answer?
15. Tampa Bay (16): Another milestone: Rays top one million fans for 2015, filling a whole 55.9 percent of the Trop. They’re last in attendance at 1.023 million by 150,000 or so fans, and last in average per game (15,740) by 2,600 fans.
16. Cleveland (18): While no one noticed, Indians crept within four games of the second wild-card berth. Of course, they still have to pass three teams and get to .500, but at 69-70, they’re close.
17. Arizona (15): Manager Chip Hale intentionally walks Buster Posey with 2-1 lead and first-and-third in the seventh, moving go-ahead run into scoring position, to get to Angel Pagan, even though Pagan was 6-15 vs. pitcher Randall Delgado and Posey 3-for-16. Pagan flew out. Who needs a research department?
18. Baltimore (17): Manny Machado is only the second-best third baseman in MLB, thanks to Josh Donaldson, but he’s hit .290 with 26 homers, 56 walks, 17 steals and a 2.0 defensive WAR rating. At age 23.
19. Boston (21): Red Sox chairman Tom Werner said TV announcer Don Orsilio was fired in the interest of “re-energizing the broadcasts.” Apparently that was easier than re-energizing the team.
20. San Diego (19): Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers says Padres are 1-2 in MLB facial hair in Dale Thayer and Kevin Quackenbush. Unfortunately, Thayer’s beard wasn’t enough to get hitters out, and he was sent to the minors last month.
21. Seattle (20): Nelson Cruz hits 40 home runs for a second straight season. Remember all the talk about Safeco not being a good park for Cruz? Imagine how many home runs he would have hit if he signed somewhere else.
22. Chicago White Sox (24): When asked if he wants to return, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said, “Absolutely.” You have to assume he figures things can’t get worse. Then again, his decision-making history includes charging Nolan Ryan.
23. Milwaukee (23): Brewers promote Nevin Ashley, who spent 10 years in the minors. Ashley’s wife’s first name is Ashley. Don’t ask what they’re going to name a girl if they ever have one.
24. Oakland (22): Bob Melvin gets a two-year extension from GM Billy Beane, who tells his manager, “By the way, not all the players I gave you were good.” Think Melvin doesn’t know that?
25. Cincinnati (25): Reds expecting sellout on Pete Rose bobblehead night. If that disappoints the purists, ask them if Tucker Barnhart bobblehead night would fill the seats?
26. Detroit (26): Detroit TV station says manager Brad Ausmus will be fired after the season. Having gone to Dartmouth, Ausmus was presumably smart enough to see it coming, given that the GM was already fired and no one will be blaming the Tigers’ 64-76 season on Miguel Cabrera.
27. Miami (27): Jose Fernandez, who hasn’t pitched since Aug. 7, set to return Saturday, against the Nats. As if the Nats don’t have enough problems, they get Fernandez instead of Adam Conley.
28. Colorado (28): Rockies are 1-2 in home runs in NL with Nolan Arenado (38) and Carlos Gonzalez (37). The latter has hit 33 since June 6, his production and playing time curtailed in the first two months by injuries.
29. Atlanta (29): Braves assistant GM John Coppolella: “If we end up with 100 losses and the first pick in the draft, it will be like having a scarlet ‘L’ that is on our chest. It will be a badge of dishonor for us.” Hard to believe given the way the team was disassembled both before and during the season. If anyone is going to be accused of impersonating the NBA’s 76ers, it’s the Braves.
30. Philadelphia (30): No surprise that Phillies fire GM Ruben Amaro, despite a pretty good summer of rebuilding the team. Of course, Amaro did a better job of tearing it down in the previous three years.