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The carefree days of summer have officially been replaced by the dread-filled nights of fall, when the general managers of every World Series contender spend sleepless nights worrying about their rosters. We’ve put each MLB divisional leader under the microscope and have identified the one Achilles heel that may prevent them from hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy.

New York Yankees: Starting pitching

Few teams have endured more adversity this season than the Yankees, who have sent a record 30 players to the IL. New York was dealt another crushing blow late last week, when right-hander Domingo Germán was placed on administrative leave under the joint MLB-MLBPA domestic violence policy. The 18-game winner will now miss the remainder of the season and the postseason.

Germán’s absence leaves the club without its most dependable starter and puts considerably more onus on Luis Severino, who has logged just nine innings all season after he was sidelined with rotator cuff inflammation and a grade 2 lat strain.

Minnesota Twins: Relief pitching

The Twins are on pace to win 100 games this season, but imagine how many more victories Minnesota would have if it had a halfway-decent bullpen. The American League Central leaders have a dismal 4.22 bullpen ERA and are allowing opposing batters to hit .257, the eighth-worst mark in the MLB.

Midseason acquisition Sam Dyson was supposed to stop the bleeding, but the veteran right-hander has been on the shelf since September 3 because of soreness in his right biceps and will likely miss the playoffs.

Houston Astros: Bench production

If the Astros have any weaknessand that’s a big ifit’s their bench. Aledmys Diaz leads all reserves with just eight home runs, and seven of Houston’s bench players are hitting .230 or worse. It’s not exactly a murderers’ row, and it could come back to haunt the Astros if they manage to advance to the World Series.

Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman’s health

Braves fans left out a collective gasp Sunday, when first baseman Freddie Freeman exited Atlanta’s game against the Giants with elbow soreness.

The four-time All-Star has been dealing with bone spurs all season and is hitting just .182 over the last two weeks as the discomfort has intensified. Atlanta needs him at his best to have any chance of advancing deep into October.

St. Louis Cardinals: Center field production

Few players embody the sophomore slump more than Harrison Bader, who is batting .207 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs a year after he finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. The Cardinals center fielder has been especially atrocious against lefties this season, as he’s “hitting” .174 in 101 plate appearances versus southpaws.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Bullpen

Much like the Twins, the Dodgers have also had to deal with an unreliable bullpen all season. Joe Kelly (5-4, 4.62 ERA) has been a disaster since he came over from Boston, and closer Kenley Jansen has blown eight saves and has a career-high 3.90 ERA.

Things will likely get better now, with Kenta Maeda’s return to the pen, but the 31-year-hurler can only be counted on to do so much.


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