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’…
Could you ask for a better pitching matchup late in the baseball season? Cy Young candidate (and probably frontrunner) Clayton Kershaw against two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. Both are dominant young pitchers, Kershaw a lefty and Lincecum a righty, both are strikeout specialists with consistanty low ERA’s. I’ve always been a bigger fan of a great pitching duel than I have of an offensive slugfest so this game looks to be good.
It’s sad that Matt Kemp is having such a good season on such an obsolete team. I don’t quite understand why Kershaw gets to be in the running for Cy Young but Kemp is barely talked about when it comes to Most Valuable Player. His stats show that he’s more than qualified for the MVP award yet names like Braun and Fielder are the two you hear most. I can’t even think of anyone else who deserves the award at this point. Pujols hasn’t had a Pujols-like year so he isn’t in there, Dan Uggla has been led the Braves to the top spot in the Wild Card, Ryan Howard is probably in there. But Kemp is having such a spectacular year that I hope he at least gets one first-place vote, you know?
On the Giants’ side it’s been a struggle for them since the beginning of the year. They lost Posey almost immediately after the season started and the offense hasn’t quite been there. Right now they sit at four games back in the Wild Card, good for third place, and a whole a game behind the Cardinals. Guys like Ross and Torres haven’t quite been what they were last season (Ross was a special case and had a year that you can neither project nor expect to be repeated) and additions like Orlando Cabrera and Carlos Beltran have done all they can to keep the Giants in the running for the Wild Card. As of late the starting pitching has really picked up and the kids they have on the staff have been dealing like they did last year, which I think gives them a bit of an edge over the Cardinals and the Braves in the Wild Card.
The Giants probably won’t make up four games with eight left to play but you can at least hope. As I mentioned the other day, though, Chris Carpenter has been pretty good for the Cardinals down the stretch.
I’ll be Tweeting throughout this game – and the rest of the season as well as into the playoffs – so if you don’t already follow me there’s a link in the right column to my feed.
If you’re a long-time reader of my blog you know that I don’t have cable. And if you’re a new reader, well… I don’t have cable. I’m usually limited to when games are on local stations or I listen to the games on my iPad using MLB At-Bat (the greatest app in the history of apps – I’ve definitely gotten my $15 worth out of it). But every Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday ESPN3 airs a game. Thanks to ESPN 3 I’m able to watch the Cardinals @ Phillies game tonight.
Let me tell you this is the best I’ve seen Chris Carpenter in a long time. His curveball, when it isn’t sharp, is big and sweeping and pretty. His control is great as he’s hitting the spots with consistency. His command is there as he can throw any of his pitches with accuracy. Granted Cole Hamels’ strikeout total is a more attractive numbere, Carp has been nothing short of great.
Albert Pujols is going to continue his streak of .300/30/100 seasons as he’s only five RBI short of the 100 mark here in this 2011 campaign. His average is a tick above the .300 mark so if he can get that a couple more digits above there in order to avoid heart attacks in Cardinals nation – and among regular fans of the sport – that would be great.
Meanwhile the race in the American League Wild Card is heating up. The Rays are two games back of the Red Sox in that Wild Card with a week and a half left to go. This is why this is the most bittersweet time of the season for me. It’s really exciting but at the same time it means the baseball season is almost over and my self-adopted life purpose goes into hibernation mode. Anyway – it’s looking to be exciting races for both the NL and the AL Wild Card.
I’m writing this as Allen Craig belts his second homer of the game to straightaway centerfield here in the top of the eighth inning. I’m hoping this Cardinals team makes it to the playoffs because they are definitely exciting to watch.
Well, any hope of a meaningful White Sox season has pretty much been thrown out the window. In fact, I think we’re now mathamatically eliminated from playoff contention. That being said, there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played and for me to write about. (Don’t worry, I won’t go away this time.)
The game I’m really excited about tonight is the Cardinals @ Phillies game. Since the Braves have sort of been slowing down in the Wild Card and the Brewers are kinda running away with the NL Central the Cards have been creeping into that NL Wild Card spot. Right now they sit 4.5 games behind the Braves and slowly gaining momentum for a huge playoff push. The Braves are in a series with the Mets right now so if New York can play spoiler and the Cardinals can somehow bring down the Powerhouse Phillies, the Wild Card could get interesting.
I basically just told you what you already knew.
Rookie sensation Vance Worley will go for the Phillies tonight against the Cardinals’ ace (since Wainwright went down) Jaime Garcia. This game, and every game from now on for St. Louis, has serious playoff implications. The Phils have already clinched a spot in the playoffs so this is just another game for them. The Cards are looking real good lately so they might be able to pull this off.
If they do that brings up the Pujols contract issue. Do the Cards bring him back for big money should the playoffs be a success? Is making the playoffs big enough success in itself to justify possibly overpaying Pujols? In my mind Albert will always be a Cardinal. He’s one of those players you just can’t picture in a different uniform. Among other players are Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter (Yankees), Paul Konerko (White Sox), David Ortiz (Red Sox), Michael Young (Rangers), and Ichiro (Mariners). We’ll see how this goes – should get exciting for the Redbird faithful.