Monday, August 18, 2014

MLB Wildcards – Don’t call this race just yet

For the better part of this season the division races haven’t been in doubt, a couple have been two horse races, but if you give any credence to ESPN’s POFF category then all but one is sealed and delivered. However some of the leaders at the mid-point have began to fade down the stretch, some of the older horses are showing their age, and the colts are hitting their stride, so this one may not end up how you think at the wire so don’t tear up that ticket just yet. In the AL you gotta’ love what Buck Showalter has done in Baltimore, coming out of the broadcast booth to almost get it done last year but creating a canyon of space (7games) between themselves and the Yanks, Jays, and Rays to coast to the division crown. Not only that but suddenly are only two games back of the Angles and A’s for the best record in baseball after it looked they those two had a monopoly on home field advantage throughout the playoffs and Series after the AL’s All-Star game win. Then they they’re bats seemed to go cold and the Angels lost 4 straight, the A’s 5, each going 5-5 and 3-7 respectively, which was enough for the Angels to take over 1st by .001 but also got the Orioles and perhaps the Royals involved in the chase. Speaking of the Royals how great is that story? Holding the division lead this late in the season for the first time in a decade, Kansas City is the hottest team in the AL, winners of 8 of their last 10. Now before we start getting all nostalgic for George Brett let’s not forget that if they don’t hold off the Tigers who are just 1.5 games back then they may be in a dog fight for the 2nd and final wild card spot. Why, because the first spot was given out long ago as the California consolation prize. With 72/73 wins already in their pocket the top seed and 1st wildcard the A’s and Angels have those seats reserved. That leaves one seat left for the Mariners (and King Felix, how would you like to draw them in a 1-game playoff?) Royals/Tigers runner-up -.5, Yankees -4, Jays -5, and Indians -5. So despite having the best record in the MLB for most of the year the loser of the AL West could find themselves needing to beat King Felix in a one-game or go home, seems like a very poor ROI for a solid 162 games worth of work. In the NL all eyes have been on the central which finally has a front runner as the Brewers are coming off a 3-game sweep of the Dodgers who prior to that series had the best record in the NL. Now they each have 70 wins each and Milwaukee has a 3-game lead in the division, their largest since the opening couple of weeks. This was done at the expense of the perpetual challengers, St. Louis and the other really “feel good” story the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now this division is far from over and the top 3 have been trading places for most of the year, but the young Brewers are peaking at the right time and after their summer vacation in LA they don’t have any doubts that they have talent necessary to get to the show for the first time since 1982. However much like the Pirates they don’t have the pedigree for winning that the club 3 games behind them does, and the Cardinals will have 7 chances head-to-head to make up those 3 games. As good a story as Ol’ Milwaukee is this year I’m not ready to hand over the Central to em’ just yet as the Cards are still the Cards and something tells me we haven’t heard the last of them. “The Lumber Company”, “The Family”, “Pops”, all of those images of the 79’ Pirates were being replayed earlier in the year as it looked like Pittsburgh finally had the depth to get them back to the post season but a 3-7 stretch including 5 straight losses over the last 10 has dropped them 5.5 back and scrambling to get back in the picture. The schedule will present the opportunities but being that they’ve barley been a .500 club all season and they’ll need to be closer to .700 the rest of the way out, it looks like Stargel and company will have dibs on baseball in the steel city for another year. The West has long been decided, and much like the AL West, it’s a California thang, with either the Dodgers or the Giants (-3.5) taking the flag and the other the top wild card. LA went on a roll and took over the best record before being swept at home by the Brew Crew, couple that with injuries to Ryu their number 3 starter, Juan Uribe, Hanley Rameriz, and “The Untouchables” looking touchable in their last two starts, all of the sudden the team that seemed destined to go one step further than they went last year when they lost in the NLCS, seems to looking a little old compared to the rest of the field. But all the Dodgers need to do is win the West. Then they avoid the possibility of losing a one game “fluke” series and teams will have to deal with the Untouchables Kershaw and Greinke in a 7-game series and that will be tough to do. Get all of the scores, schedules, highlights, and everything about the playoff races here.
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