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Finally some good news on the MLB pitcher health front

In a demoralizing season for pitcher health, two Cy Young Award winners finally returned to the mound this past week.

Gerrit Cole pitched four-plus innings Wednesday for the New York Yankees and Max Scherzer worked five scoreless frames Sunday for the Texas Rangers. Each right-hander was making his season debut.

Cole and Scherzer are two of the lucky ones — in that they were actually able to come back this season. Shane McClanahan, Sandy Alcantara, Felix Bautista and Shohei Ohtani haven’t pitched at all in 2024 and aren’t expected to. Spencer Strider and Shane Bieber pitched a bit but are now out for the rest of the year. And they’re hardly the only ones.

So it was a boost for the Yankees and Rangers when their two stars returned from their injuries. Cole and Scherzer joined teams in significantly different spots. New York leads the AL East even after losing two of three to both Baltimore and Atlanta. Texas, meanwhile, is three games under .500 and could certainly use any help the 39-year-old Scherzer can provide.

The Yankees have the best ERA in the American League, which shows how well their rotation has pitched even in Cole’s absence, but he may be back at just the right time. The day after Cole made his season debut, Luis Gil — who has been mostly brilliant this year — was knocked out in the second inning of a 17-5 loss. Later in the week, New York had to put slugger Giancarlo Stanton on the injured list with a hamstring issue. So Cole’s ability to pitch after missing time with elbow problems could be crucial in the weeks to come.

Of course, with pitchers these days, any optimism should be cautious. Scherzer was sidelined late last season with shoulder problems, and he had back surgery in the offseason. The three-time Cy Young Award winner allowed just one hit in his outing against Kansas City over the weekend.

Triple chance

Ohtani’s MVP chances took a hit when Tommy John surgery took him off the mound for this season. But with Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. out for the season and Los Angeles teammate Mookie Betts currently sidelined with a broken hand, perhaps the door is open for Ohtani — even though his role as a designated hitter will likely work against him.

Winning the Triple Crown would certainly keep Ohtani in the conversation, and right now he leads the National League in batting average (.321) and home runs (23). He’s third in RBIs (57), seven behind leader Marcell Ozuna.

Line of the week

Pablo Lopez struck out 14 in eight scoreless innings to help the Minnesota Twins to a 3-0 win over Oakland on Sunday. That was one day after Bailey Ober threw an 89-pitch complete game for the Twins in a 10-2 victory.

Minnesota has won 10 of its last 14, and although the Twins are still 7 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Cleveland, they’re in the second wild-card spot.

Comeback of the week

Jason Heyward’s grand slam and Teoscar Hernandez’s three-run homer lifted the Los Angeles Dodgers to a seven-run top of the ninth and an 11-9 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night. With two outs in the ninth, Colorado manager Bud Black was ejected arguing over whether Hernandez swung at a 1-2 pitch. The first base umpire ruled he did not, and he went on to hit the winning homer.

According to Baseball Savant, the Rockies had a 99.6% chance to win during the eighth.

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