Six MLB milestones to watch in final two weeks: Adam Wainwright, Ronald Acuña Jr., Yankees chasing key numbers

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Only one week and six days remain in the 2023 MLB regular season. Four of the six division titles and eight of the 12 postseason spots remain up for grabs, plus the awards races are coming down to the wire, so there’s still plenty to be decided this year. The AL East, AL West, and NL wild-card races are especially compelling.

Several players and teams are approaching milestones as well, some of which are pretty historic, and the clock is ticking. There are only so many games remaining this season. Here are six milestones that are within reach as the regular season winds down.

Wainwright finally — finally — picked up his 199th career win last Tuesday. He went 11 starts between his 198th and 199th wins and those 11 starts were not pretty: 10.72 ERA and a .387/.448/.672 opponent’s batting line. Wainwright held the high-powered Braves to three runs in five innings in his home state of Georgia in his 199th win, so there’s still something in the tank.

As things stand, Wainwright has three starts remaining this year, which he has already said will be his final season. 

Here is his tentative pitching schedule the rest of the season:

You can be sure Wainwright and the Cardinals hope he gets No. 200 at home against the Brewers or Reds. If it happens in San Diego, it happens in San Diego, but doing it at Busch Stadium would be special. Wainwright would be the 122nd pitcher with 200 career wins should he get there. (Wainwright has something special planned for his farewell weekend, by the way.)

Over the weekend Olson, in his second year with the Braves, set the franchise’s single-season record with 52 home runs. Andruw Jones held the previous record with 51 dingers. No National League player has hit 60 homers since Barry Bonds (73) and Sammy Sosa (64) back in 2001, so Olson is within striking distance.

Olson needs eight home runs in Atlanta’s final 13 games to crack 60 homers. In his last 13 games, Olson has hit … eight home runs. It’s definitely doable. Olson never takes a day off either. He has started every single game at first base this season. Not even one DH day mixed in. The Braves have already clinched the NL East title, so I supposed they could opt to rest their regulars in advance of the postseason, but it would go against their M.O.

I can’t say I pay attention to pitcher win-loss records these days, though I was still shocked to see Greinke is 1-15 (!) with the Royals this season. Yeesh. Kansas City has paired him with an opener a few times recently and Greinke has not gone more than 4 2/3 innings or 76 pitches in any of his last six appearances. The 39-year-old doesn’t appear to have much left in the tank.

That means this milestone — Greinke becoming the 20th member of the 3,000-strikeout club — is very unlikely to happen before the end of the season, though I suppose it’s not completely impossible. Greinke is sitting on 2,967 career strikeouts, so he needs 33 strikeouts in likely two but certainly no more than three appearances the rest of the season. So yeah, unlikely.

Greinke has 35 strikeouts in his last 14 games and he hasn’t had back-to-back double-digit strikeout games since 2018. I’m rooting for the wily right-hander to turn back the clock these last two weeks and make an improbable run to 3,000 strikeouts, but yeah, it’s not going to happen. Too bad. Greinke will have to come back next season to get there, if any team will have him.

Acuña, the presumptive NL MVP, has already become the first 30/60 player in baseball history, and he got there before September. Astonishing numbers, truly: 30 home runs and 60 stolen bases. Acuña is still going too. He is now sitting on 37 home runs and 66 stolen bases, so a 40/70 season is within reach. 40/70! How ridiculous. That shouldn’t be possible, yet Acuña’s doing it.

Here are the most stolen bases by a 40-homer player in baseball history:

Team Home runs Stolen bases

Alex Rodriguez

1998 Mariners

42

46

Alfonso Soriano

2006 Nationals

46

41

Barry Bonds

1996 Giants

42

40

Jose Canseco

1988 Athletics

42

40

Ronald Acuña Jr.

2019 Braves

41

37

Acuña came so close to being the fifth member of the 40/40 club in 2019. Three more steals that year and we’re talking about him trying to become the first two-time 40/40 player in history this season. That said, being the first 40/70 player is pretty darn cool in its own right. Here now are the most home runs by a 70-stolen base player in history:

Team Home runs Stolen bases

Rickey Henderson

1986 Yankees

28

87

Eric Davis

1986 Reds

27

80

Rickey Henderson

1985 Yankees

24

80

Lou Brock

1966 Cardinals

15

74

Juan Samuel

1984 Phillies

15

72

Acuña is poised to sit atop those two leaderboards with great distance between him and the runner-up. The Braves have 13 games remaining and Acuña needs to hit three homers and steal four bases in those 13 games to become the charter member of the 40/70 club. He wants it, you know it, and I don’t think the Braves will be able to talk him out of playing even though a little rest in advance of the postseason might be the smart move in the grand scheme of things.

5. Atlanta Braves: 107 wins

On Sept. 10, the Braves became the first team to clinch a postseason berth. A few days later they clinched their sixth consecutive NL East title, and, at some point soon, they will clinch the best record in baseball. That comes with a Wild Card Series bye as well as home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Atlanta has been the sport’s most dominant team in 2023, hands down.

The Braves enter the season’s penultimate week with a 96-53 (.644) record that puts them on pace for 104 wins. With a strong finish the season — 11 wins in their last 13 games, specifically — Atlanta has a chance to post the winningest season in franchise history. Here are the highest win totals in Braves history:

  1. 1998: 106-56 (.654)
  2. 1993: 104-58 (.642)
  3. 1999: 103-59 (.646)
  4. 1898: 102-47 (.685)
  5. 1892: 102-48 (.680)

The Braves can not match the 1898 team’s franchise record .685 winning percentage even if they win all their remaining games. Getting to 107 wins to set a new franchise record is the goal and would certainly be a tremendous accomplishment. The winningest Braves season ever is within reach with less than two weeks to play.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Royals have baseball’s worst record at 48-102 (.320). The franchise record is 106 losses in 2005, so the Royals must go at least 9-3 in their final 12 games to avoid the worst season in team history. Considering Kansas City has won only nine of its previous 30 games, it’ll be a tall order. This is history no one wants to see made.

6. New York Yankees: 82 wins

Winning 82 games isn’t much to celebrate, particularly when you came into the season expecting to contend for a World Series. In this case though, 82 wins means the Yankees will have extended their winning season streak to an incredible 31 seasons. They have not had a losing season since going 76-86 in 1992. That was the year the Yankees drafted Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

New York’s current 30-season winning season streak is the second-longest such streak in MLB history, and the third longest in the four major professional sports leagues. Here are the longest streaks of winning seasons in the four major men’s North American sports:

  1. 39 seasons: 1926-64 New York Yankees
  2. 32 seasons: 1952-83 Montreal Canadiens
  3. 30 seasons: 1993-2022 New York Yankees (active)

The Yankees bottomed out at six games under .500 on Aug. 27 (62-68). They are 14-6 in 20 games since then, including 6-2 in their last eight games, so they have been better of late. The Yankees are 76-74 must win six of their final 12 games to reach 82 wins and clinch their 31st straight winning season. It’s not much, but in a lost season, it’s a little something worth celebrating.

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