The American League Wild Card race is getting real interesting right now. With a Baltimore win over the Red Sox and the Rays downing the Yankees, the Rays and Sox are now tied atop the AL Wild Card standings. It looked for a while like the Red Sox may be able to hold their ground and continue this dominant season but the Rays have really come on strong and can smell the playoffs.
Josh Beckett pitched well against the Orioles last night but the Baltimore offense has decided to play the role of Major Spoiler and give the Rays some help. Chris Davis and Robert Andino were the unlikely heroes in Baltimore’s 6-3 victory over Boston, Davis driving in a pair and Andino scattering three RBI throughout the game. Tonight the Red Sox will send veteran southpaw Erik Bedard (1-2, 3.63 ERA) to the mound against rookie and fellow left-hander Zach Britton (11-10, 4.44 ERA).
The Rays needed a big inning to bust through against the Yankees and that’s what they got in the bottom of the third. With the score at 2-0 Yankees, a two-run double off the bat of B.J. Upton and a Johnny Damon RBI single put the Rays up for good. Having James Shields on the mound gave the Rays that extra boost of confidence to overcome the Yankees as Shields pitched eight and two thirds innings of six-hit, two-run baseball. Kyle Farnsworth recorded his twenty-fourth save of the year. Tonight young righty Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.90 ERA) will go against journeyman righty Bartolo Colon (8-10, 4.02 ERA) in a chance for the Rays to hop into first place in the Wild Card.
It’s Veteran vs. Youngster for the Sox and Youngster vs. Veteran for the Rays in what could be the biggest game of the season for both of these two playoff-bound teams.
…but the Wild Card. That’s right, all of the divisions have been decided except for the Wild Card.
NL West – Diamondbacks
NL Central – Brewers
NL East – Phillies
AL West – Rangers
AL Central – Tigers
AL East – Yankees
As of right now the Red Sox hold a 1.5 game lead over the Rays in the American League and the Braves have a slim 2 game lead over the Cardinals, with the Cardinals igniting over the last two weeks.
With four games left in the regular season losses are huge. Could there be two one-game playoff’s? One? Or will both Wild Card’s be decided in 162 games? We’ll know soon enough.
It’s been five years since the Tigers last made it to the playoffs, and five years ago Justin Verlander was a rookie. For a rookie he pitched surprisingly well in the postseason. Verlander has always had the ability to perform in the clutch as if it weren’t any different than a normal game. Now that’s he’s had five years to develop as a better pitcher, I gotta be honest, I can’t wait to see him rock the playoffs again.
Verlander has always been one of my favorite players. I usually dislike players in the same division as the Sox but something about how Verlander carries himself has made me root for him. That and he’s a darn-good pitcher. Guys like Joe Mauer and Grady Sizemore I hate with a burning passion but I’ve always respected Verlander. Any guy who’s throwing 100 MPH into the eighth inning deserves some respect.
How will Verlander perform in the postseason? I don’t think it’ll be any different than the regular season. Count on eight innings of solid pitching, three runs or less, a handful of strikeouts, and single-digit hits. The guy is money. (No, literally, he IS money. It’s awesome.)
That’s enough on Verlander, time for the And Other Playoff Thoughts part. I’m putting the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Underdog category this season. The whole team has played REALLY well and my friend texted me the other day and said he thinks Upton deserves a shot at MVP. I kinda reviewed my MVP candidates a couple posts back and somehow completely forgot about Upton. While he hasn’t performed to the caliber of a Braun or a Fielder he’s definitely carried the D-Backs to a postseason appearance. Add Chris Young, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Roberts, Miguel Montero, and you’ve got yourself an offense. I doubt they’ll be able to get past the Phillies but people said the same thing about the Giants last year and look how that went.
That’s not a prediction, I’m just sayin’… y’know… it could happen…
The pitching is the only thing that bothers me about Arizona. They have all the other pieces but the pitching has been iffy. Unlike the Giants, who HAD pitching to go along with everything else, I think that’s what could ultimately be Arizona’s downfall. Ian Kennedy (20-4, 2.88) has been spectacular this year but past him and Daniel Hudson (16-11, 3.43) there’s a noticeable dropoff. Heck, even between Kennedy and Hudson there’s a dropoff. I don’t measure pitching by wins and losses, and people shouldn’t, because a pitcher can’t really control that. If you look at the ERA’s of the starting staff they’re giving up less than four runs per game.
Then you get into the bullpen. Some of the ERA’s in there are painful to look at but there are two bright spots. Closer J.J. Putz and reliever Joe Paterson. Putz has somehow managed to save forty-three games for the Diamondbacks this year after the Sox could barely get him to survive one inning. Paterson, even though he’s winless, has a 2.97 ERA in thirty-three and a third innings. Not bad. If the rest of the starting staff can kick it up a notch, and the bullpen can come through, I think the Diamondbacks will look like this year’s version of the Giants.
Again… I’m just sayin’…