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Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta Suspensions Directly Impact American League Playoff Races

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics

Lost in the unending waves of Alex Rodriguez Biogenesis headlines: the suspensions handed out Monday by baseball will directly impact the pennant races in the American League. We don’t know how much Rodriguez, at 38-years old and coming off major hip surgery, has left in the tank even if he is an upgrade at third base for the Yankees. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Yankees third baseman have posted an anemic 215/.272/.285-.557 line this season. (A-Rod went 1-for-4 in his debut.)

Less debatable: the Rangers and Tigers lost key starters in their hunt for October after Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta accepted their 50-game bans. It remains unclear if any suspended players could or would return for the postseason.

The Tigers wisely anticipated a suspension for was coming for Peralta, a 2013 All-Star, last week when they acquired infielder José Iglesias from the Red Sox in a three-way deal. Iglesias is a slick fielder but a definite downgrade from the power Peralta provided with his 11 homers and .305/.361/.461 line.

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Something to keep in mind is the Tigers are only four games up on the Indians and the Central division rivals started a four-game series Monday in Cleveland. (The Tigers won the first game 4-2 thanks to a ninth-inning meltdown by Chris Perez.) Detroit does lead baseball in batting average and is second in runs scored, however Miguel Cabrera has been hobbled by a hip/abdominal issue and Prince Fielder has hit four home runs since June. Losing a solid, everyday contributor like Peralta will make the Detroit lineup much more manageable, especially since after Victor Martinez bats it could read: Andy Dirks, Iglesias, Alex Avila and Ramon Santiago, who is filling in for Omar Infante.

Detroit still should have the starting pitching and an improved bullpen to absorb the loss of Peralta, who like Cruz will be a free agent after the season and likely accepted a penalty now rather than go into the winter with it looming over his head as he looks for a new contract.

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The loss of Cruz will be much tougher to absorb by the Rangers. We’re used to working under the notion Texas has one of the league’s best offenses. Right now the Rangers are only 13th in runs scored. Although they’ve been better in early August, the Rangers finished July scoring two or fewer runs in 12 games — including four shutouts.

Texas also doesn’t appear to have a ready-made replacement for Cruz’s team-high 27 home runs. It certainly won’t make the chase of first-place Oakland any easier and is probably a reason why there was rumors at the trade deadline Texas was ready to sell. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale was on MLB Network Monday afternoon saying the Rangers were ‘blindsided’ by the fact Cruz decided against appealing his suspension, which means the team will have to scramble and likely start an outfield of Leonys Martin (6 HRs), David Murphy (12) and Craig Gentry (1) tonight. (Hey, don’t forget Texas signed Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract!)

One factor working in the Rangers favor as they chase the Athletics, whom they trail by two games as of Tuesday morning: their schedule. Texas is blessed with a very manageable set of games the rest of August, including a pair of series with Houston, along with series with the White Sox and Brewers. All told, the rest of the Rangers opponents this month are a combined 93 games under-.500.

It’s was easy to forget, but there are actual baseball implications from the Biogenesis fallout beyond whether or not A-Rod gets to keep the $100+ million the Yankees owe him.

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