Week Ahead: Trade Deadline deals set up action

Yes, the last day of the fourth month of the 162-game season also happens to be the same day as the Trade Deadline. In other words, by 4 p.m. ET, last-minute deals that could alter the landscape as we inch ever closer to October could be struck, and Darvish or Gray or neither could be putting on Yankee pinstripes or Dodger blue or some other mystery uniform.

And they’re not the only ones.

Trades happen on the last day of July, often right up to the last possible minute. In fact, trades have already happened leading up to this milestone, and that brings us to the serious business of standings-watching as we hit the end of another month on the 2017 big league slate.

Gray has been strongly linked to the Yankees recently, and Darvish is reportedly on the radar of the Yankees and Dodgers, so it will be intriguing, to say the least, to pay close attention to the transaction wires until the Deadline passes.

In the meantime, there will be plenty of baseball games to watch.

Check out the American League Central, for example. The Indians and Royals have each won nine of their last 10 games, and while Cleveland enters Monday with a two-game lead in the division, Kansas City made yet another move to shore up its roster heading into crunch time, trading with the White Sox for outfielder Melky Cabrera.

Cabrera headed to Royals

On Sunday, Kansas City won in dramatic fashion, beating the AL East-contending Red Sox, and manager Ned Yost marveled at how the Royals’ recent hot streak just continues.

“We just kept grinding, just keep grinding the at-bats,” Yost said. “It’s just kind of typical of our success. The big guys are getting on base, and [some players], who struggled so much at the beginning of the year, come up with huge hits.”

This week, Kansas City will try to keep the vibes going in a packed week with three games at Baltimore followed by a four-game home set vs. the Mariners, who are still in the AL Wild Card race.

The Indians, meanwhile, get the tough assignment of facing the top two teams in the AL East. First they’ll play the Red Sox, who are in a divisional dogfight with the Yankees leading by a half-game. Cleveland will travel to Fenway Park for a three-game series to open the week, with the marquee matchup of Carlos Carrasco vs. Chris Sale set for Tuesday. The Tribe then heads back home to Progressive Field to host the Yankees for four games.

In the National League Central, the Cubs will try to build on the 2 1/2-game lead over the Brewers. Chicago has won seven of its last 10 and enters a six-game stretch that will show exactly how ready it is for October baseball. After a Monday off, the Cubs get six straight home games against major NL contenders: three vs. the Wild Card-contending D-backs followed by three against the NL East-leading Nationals.

Elsewhere around the big leagues, there’s some history to watch.

Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre got his 3,000th hit on Sunday at home against the Orioles, and he’ll try to get No. 3,001 and a lot more as the Rangers play three against the Mariners at home prior to heading out to Minnesota for a four-pack against the Twins that will finish off the week.

Must C: Beltre's 3,000th hit

Beltre won’t have his shortage of baseball-crazy admirers, and either will the Dodgers, who keep winning in what is becoming a remarkable season.

Los Angeles is miles ahead in the NL West and will look to extend its dominance into the week ahead, when they swing through the East Coast. After a travel day on Monday, the Dodgers will play three vs. the Braves in Atlanta and three vs. the Mets in New York.

The Dodgers might not have ace Clayton Kershaw, who’s on the disabled list with lower back soreness, but they could have Darvish.

Either way, they appear to like how things are going these days.

“I think we have the confidence,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “We have a really good lineup — one through eight, there’s some threats, obviously. It’s kind of hard to keep us quiet one through eight on any night.”

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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