By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and the Cleveland Indians have opted for the difficult choice of punishing two of its top talents for breaking COVID-19 protocols. On Monday, the team sent pitcher Zach Plesac home for violating safety measures. On Tuesday, his rotation mate Mike Clevinger joined him. It’s unclear when either of the pair will return to the team. Carlos Carrasco, who shares the rotation with Plesac and Clevinger, battled leukemia within the last year, making him extremely high-risk for COVID-19. Cleveland’s adherence to safety measures—even at the expense of on-field success—is commendable.

Mets right-hander Marcus Stroman, out with a torn calf, officially ended his season by opting out on Monday afternoon. It’s a move that likely ends his tenure with the Mets as he is set to hit free agency this off-season. It is worth noting that in an era where teams manipulate service time to take advantage of players dozens of times a season, Stroman exacted some revenge. By waiting to opt-out this late, Stroman, though injured, racked up enough service time to qualify for free agency this winter. The Mets, currently struggling to tread water in the National League East, will likely turn to David Peterson for the remainder of the season.

Slugger Giancarlo Stanton, off to a blistering start in 2020, suffered a hamstring injury over the weekend and hit the injured list. Across 14 games, Stanton was hitting .293/.453/.585 with an impressive 11-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the Yankees. Now, he is likely going to be sidelined into late August, if not early September. The Yankees recalled young outfielder Clint Frazier on Tuesday. Across 69 games in 2019, Frazier bashed 12 home runs while showing glimpses of the skill-set that made him one of the top outfield prospects in baseball a few years ago. Despite some hiccups, the Yankees are entrenched as the class of the American League East.

In the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers moved closer to reaching the postseason behind an incredible individual showing from guard Damian Lillard. In a must-win game against the Dallas Mavericks, Lillard scored 61 points on 17-of-32 shooting, single-handedly willing Portland to victory. The Blazers have won four of five, and in the process, overtaken the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the West. Despite the run of success, Portland isn’t locked into the playoffs just yet. The Blazers need a win against the Nets to clinch the No. 8 seed. A play-in tournament beginning on Saturday remains a likelihood.

Phoenix has a chance to join the Blazers in overtaking the Grizzlies in the standings with a win over the Mavericks on Thursday and a Memphis loss. The Suns have put forth an incredible showing in the bubble, moving to 7-0 following Tuesday’s come-from-behind win over the Thunder. Devin Booker continues to prove his place among the superstar offensive players in the NBA, Mikal Bridges is slowly turning into an elite defensive presence, and veteran Ricky Rubio continues to go overlooked when it comes to his role in Phoenix’s unexpected success.

While things aren’t trending in the right direction for Memphis, the Grizzlies can force a play-in game with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Working in Memphis’s favor is that Giannis Antetokounmpo will likely be suspended for the contest following an ejection from Tuesday’s game with the Wizards. The Bucks have nothing to play for in this one, which could lead to Memphis going up against a collection of Milwaukee’s reserves. Thursday’s full slate of game was always going to be fun, but with so much up for grabs, the final day of seeding games in the Orlando bubble will be a must-watch event.

Later.

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