Monday, August 1, 2011

With 2/3rds of the season behind us all but one divsion is up for grabs

With roughly 56 games remaining in the 2011 Major League season, we are looking at a shootout at the O.K. Corral, baseball style! All of the contenders re-armed in different ways, hoping to bring in enough ammunition to get them over the top and into the post-season. Before yesterday’s trade deadline, there were eight teams in both the American and National League’s with legit shots at playing playoff baseball. Almost all of them did a little something in terms of adding personnel in order to make that final push!

In the American League East as always it’s a two team race. The Red Sox hold a slim two-game advantage on the Yankees, while the Bronx Bombers appear to have the wild-card spot all but lassoed-up with an eight game margin in front of the Angels in the loss column. Boston beefed up its staff with the addition of Eric Bedard from Seattle while also removing Jon Lester from the disabled list. On the flip side the back injury to Right-hander Clay Buchholz if serious, could make the Bedard move a wash overall. The surprise move might be that the Yankees decided to do nothing. Many thought the struggling Ubaldo Jimenez might look good in pinstripes and the change of scenery might do him good as well. But Yankee brass decided against the move and he landed in Cleveland. In a close race where anything can happen, you have to like the Red Sox here for not staying pat.

The Central is Detroit’s to win but Cleveland and Chicago are for real with Minnesota needing a lot of good fortune at seven games back. The Tribe made the latest splash with the pick-up of Jimenez in a five player swap, while also snatching outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Chicago Cubs. The first place Tigers must feel good about their slim two and a half game lead, because they didn’t re-load at all. But when you’re throwing A.L. CY Young leader Justin Verlander, and backing him with both Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello both 11 game winners, you have good reason to feel confident. Besides taking John Danks off the disabled list the White Sox did nothing and it will take more magic than Ozzie Guillen has to win the division with the current squad.

The wild-west is once again a two-team race with the defending A.L. Champion Rangers holding off the Angels by just two games. They also did their best to make sure nothing changes with the acquisitions before Sunday’s deadline. Of course getting Mike Adams from the Padres was the marquee move they needed for the bullpen. But in also picking up reliever Koji Uehara turned their team weakness into strength. After this the Angels probably will need divine intervention to win the West.

Turning to the National League East the Phillies appear to be a lock for the division while the Braves have to be considered the wild-card favorite. Philadelphia’s move to grab Hunter Pence might have been a reaction to counter the San Francisco Giants acquisition of Carlos Beltran for another N.L.C.S showdown. But the bottom line is it gives Philadelphia another solid right-handed at bat for the stretch run, who will be able to deal with left-handed pitchers from both the Braves and Giants in the post-season. Let’s not forget Philly also appears to have a healthy Shane Victorino in the line-up. We’ll see how their next series with the Giants in the Bay Area turns out. As far as the Braves are concerned, no doubt with both Nate McLouth and Brian McCann on the disabled list, Atlanta might find itself not holding the wildcard spot for long in the National League, despite the speedy Michael Bourne in the line-up fresh out of Houston.

The Central is indeed the race to watch! The Milwaukee Brewers hold a slim lead of just two and a half games, but the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are all in the hunt. Everybody tried to improve their chances for a division title. The Brew-Crew added infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. The Red Birds traded for shortstop Rafael Furcal. The Reds dealt outfielder Jonny Gomes for outfielder Bill Rhinehart and left-handed pitcher Chris Manno. The Bucs big move brings in hard-hitting outfielder Ryan Ludwick from San Diego. This division will be the hottest race down the stretch because even the third place Pirates and fourth place Reds are capable of making runs to the top of the division with plenty of time left! It is truly up for grabs in the Central.

The West is all about the defending World Champion Giants and second place Diamondbacks, now just two games behind. San Francisco picked up Beltran as we stated earlier and also shortstop Orlando Cabrera to probably take over the position for an aging and injured Miguel Tejada. Beltran is off to a terrible start in four games with just two hits and one run batted in. This is indeed the Giants weakness, hitting and if he can’t come through their chances of winning both the division and the pennant go way down. Arizona made some moves of it’s own on the hill. The D-Backs traded for starting pitcher Jason Marques and reliever Brad Ziegler. They are now better equipped to deal with the Giants pitching-wise head to head, but the injury to Stephen Drew might have been the game changer as far as the division goes.

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