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Marcell Ozuna
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Baseball Daily Dose

Big Bear Bash

by Ryan Boyer
Updated On: September 17, 2019, 12:39 am ET

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Marcell Ozuna hasn’t had many hits lately, but he sure made his two Monday count.

"The Big Bear" slugged a two-run home run off of Stephen Strasburg in the first inning and swatted a tie-breaking two-run double in the seventh Monday, accounting for all four of the Cardinals’ runs in their 4-2 win over the Nationals.

The win allowed the Cardinals to remain two games ahead of the Cubs (who also won) and three games ahead of the Brewers (ditto) in the National League Central. The Cards had just suffered a back-breaking loss to the latter on Sunday and they have a four-game series versus the former this weekend.

Ozuna, by the way, has never played in a playoff game, having spent the first five seasons of his career with the Marlins and last year on a third-place St. Louis club.

As previously alluded to, Ozuna had been struggling lately, having entered Monday batting just .137/.241/.314 in September. The home run Monday was his fourth in 15 games this month, though, and he now has 28 dingers and 86 RBI in his walk year.

The Nationals, meanwhile, now only have a half-game lead over the Cubs for the top NL Wild Card spot and just a 1.5-game lead over the Brewers.

It will be Patrick Corbin against Miles Mikolas on Tuesday in St. Louis in another matchup with big playoff implications.

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Giolito Shut Down

Lucas Giolito’s big breakout season has come to a premature end.

In news that came out of nowhere, the White Sox announced Monday night that Giolito is dealing with a mild right lat strain and will be shut down for the remainder of the season. Giolito apparently felt something during his normal between-starts bullpen session Sunday and an MRI revealed the bad news.

The good news is that it doesn’t seem like anything that should be a long-term concern. However, it’s an injury that could normally cost a pitcher about 3-4 weeks of action and obviously there’s not that much time left in the season.

Giolito had his sixth double-digit strikeout game of the season in his last start and fanned a franchise-record eight straight Royals at one point. He will finish the year with a whopping 228 punchouts versus just 57 walks over 176 2/3 innings covering 29 starts. The 25-year-old held a 3.41 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.

It’s certainly one of the bigger one-year turnarounds we’ve ever seen, as Giolito was coming off a season when he posted a 6.13 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 125/90 K/BB ratio across 173 1/3 frames. He will be among the first handful of starting pitchers to go off the board in fantasy drafts next spring.

Ross Detwiler will slide into Giolito’s vacated spot on Tuesday in Minnesota.

Rizzo Given Boot

If the Cubs are to make a push to the National League Central title, they’re almost surely going to have to do it without their star first baseman.     

Anthony Rizzo underwent an MRI on his injured right ankle Monday, which showed that he’s dealing with a moderate sprain. He does not need surgery, but Rizzo will wear a walking boot for 5-7 days before being re-evaluated. The first baseman was injured on Sunday while fielding a bunt.

For what it’s worth, Rizzo isn’t ruling out a return before the end of the regular season. However, the reality is that, with less than two weeks remaining, it’s probably not going to happen.

"My body usually responds pretty well, so I'm certainly not ruling it out," Rizzo said. "I have every intention of trying to do everything I can with the training staff to get back on the field with the boys. I think a few days will really tell us a lot more just about how everything reacts. But as of now, it doesn't feel great.”

Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that it “would take basically a miracle” for Rizzo to return before the end of the regular season. A “more realistic” timetable, he says, “would start after at least the first series of the playoffs.”

Losing Rizzo is obviously a major bummer for a Cubs team that learned just over a week ago that they would be without Javier Baez (thumb) for the remainder of the regular season. The club is expected to use a combination of Victor Caratini, Ian Happ, Jonathan Lucroy and perhaps Willson Contreras at first base while Rizzo is on the shelf.

 

National League Quick Hits: Robbie Ray carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and wound up allowing one run over six frames Monday in a no-decision against the Marlins. … Brandon Woodruff (oblique) will be activated from the injured list and start for the Brewers on Tuesday versus the Padres. … Craig Kimbrel (elbow) will throw a 12-15 pitch simulated game on Tuesday and could be activated by this weekend. … Garrett Cooper has been sent back to Miami to have his bruised right knee evaluated. … Carlos Martinez (asthma) recorded a one-out save Monday after being unavailable for a couple days. …  Jeff McNeil went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer on Monday in a loss to the Rockies. … Anthony Rendon went 2-for-4 and crushed his 34th homer Monday against the Cardinals. … Garrett Richards surrendered three runs in 3 2/3 innings versus the Brewers to take a loss in his return from Tommy John surgery.

American League Quick Hits: Carlos Correa (back) is expected to be activated off the injured list sometime this week. … Domingo Santana (elbow) is expected to be activated from the injured list on Tuesday. … Jose Berrios pitched 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball and fanned eight batters in a win over the White Sox on Monday. … Athletics manager Bob Melvin indicated Monday that Stephen Piscotty (ankle) is unlikely to return before the end of the regular season. … Tyler Alexander picked up his first major league win in a spot start Monday, holding the Orioles to one run over six frames in the Tigers' victory. … Mike Fiers (arm) expects to throw a bullpen session Tuesday and could make his next scheduled start. … Trey Mancini popped a solo home run and added a double in Monday's loss to the Tigers. … Matthew Boyd has been scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday versus the Indians due to a family matter.

Ryan Boyer

Ryan Boyer is a baseball writer for NBC Sports Edge. He can also be found on Twitter.