The last thing a team locked into the postseason wants heading into the final game of the regular season is to lose a key player. The Minnesota Twins appeared to be in that situation when rookie star third baseman Luis Arraez had to be carted off the field after colliding with first baseman Willians Astudillo in Saturday's 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Arraez could put no pressure on his right leg as he got on the cart, but initial X-rays were negative, and the Twins are cautiously optimistic that he might be ready for the first game of the American League Division Series on Friday in New York.
"Obviously that's a tough moment," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters after the game of the collision. "Nobody ever wants to see that. Luis has been wonderful for us. That doesn't matter. You don't want to see anyone having to deal with a situation like that. Luckily, X-rays were negative on his ankle."
Baldelli said that Arraez was concerned the injury was more serious as he was being taken off the field.
"He was definitely scared at the time. He's already in there breaking a few smiles and doing a little better than he initially thought he would. At least we got some good initial news."
But before the playoffs begin, the Twins and Royals will close out the 2019 season Sunday. Right-hander Jake Odorizzi was supposed to start for Minnesota but he had a tight left hamstring in his last outing so the team decided to let him rest. Instead, the start will go to left-hander Martin Perez (10-7, 5.13 ERA).
Righty Jorge Lopez (4-9, 6.35) gets the nod for Kansas City in Ned Yost's final game as Royals manager.
Perez has a 1-1 record with a 5.35 ERA in seven starts against the Royals in his career. In four starts against Kansas City this season, he's 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA after allowing 21 runs (18 earned) on 26 hits in 19 innings. He faced the Twins last week, giving up five runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings.
It's been a difficult season for Kansas City, but there have been some highlights. Jorge Soler clubbed his 46th and 47th home runs in Saturday's loss, meaning he'll probably become the first Royal to lead the American League in home runs in the club's 51-year history. Whit Merrifield had three hits and leads the majors by eight. He is likely to become the second right-handed hitter in history to lead the major leagues in hits in back-to-back seasons (Kirby Puckett, 1988-89).
But plenty more players have been looking to prove that they belong in the big leagues.
Lopez is one of those. He's been way up and way down in his short career. He had the best outing of his career in Minnesota last September, taking a perfect game into the ninth. But he also opened this season 0-7.
He's 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA this season against the Twins. He's 2-1 with a 5.64 ERA against the Twins in his career.