With the playoffs beginning in less than a month, there are key injuries to several players that will change the course for teams trying to lock down a spot in the postseason.
The defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals suffered a major blow when first baseman Lance Berkman went down with a knee injury that will end his season—and perhaps, his career (h/t, David Brown, Big League Stew).
With the Cardinals clinging to a 1.5-game lead for the second wild-card spot over the Dodgers, losing one of its biggest bats is yet another challenge to overcome for Mike Matheny’s club.
While it is too early to count out the resilient Cards, this is a much different team than the one that made an improbable run to claim the title in 2011.
The club that is chasing the Cards for the last spot—the Los Angeles Dodgers—are hoping star slugger Matt Kemp can shake off a bum shoulder that sidelined him recently.
Kemp has missed 56 games this season, and without him at 100 percent, it is hard to envision Don Mattingly’s club making any noise in October.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds sit atop the standings in the NL Central, but they are resting closer Aroldis Chapman and his tired pitching shoulder.
While the Reds have a comfortable cushion in the Central division, Chapman’s recent struggles with his velocity and a blown save opportunity last week against the worst team in baseball (Houston Astros) is cause for concern heading down the stretch.
Over in the American League, the Baltimore Orioles are in a duel with the New York Yankees for the AL East.
Even though the loser will likely clinch a wild-card spot, the O’s are limping to the finish line after injuries to outfielder Nick Markakis (broken thumb) and starting pitcher Jason Hammel (knee), per John Parent of calltothepen.com.
The Yanks have its own issues staying healthy—with first baseman Mark Teixeira likely sidelined for the remainder of the regular season with a strained left calf, per Bryan Hoch of mlb.com.
All of these injuries present significant hurdles for the teams in contention for a playoff spot, and whichever clubs are able to overcome these challenges will be left standing when October rolls around.