As the races in major league baseball march on we are starting to see some teams in situations they may not have foreseen when the season began.
Think about this: in the last three weeks the leaders have the National League West, National League Central, and American League East were caught and are now in dogfights for the Wild Card spot. Speaking of Wild Cards, in the American and National league races a total of 10 teams are within striking distance of the second Wild Card spot.
What I’m trying to say is that we could be in for one of the most exciting August/September finishes if things in recent memory.
After being swept by the Braves last weekend (in a series that saw them score only three runs) the Cardinals traveled to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates five times in four days and have already lost three of them and their lead in the division. To add insult to injury it also looks like MVP candidate Yadier Molina could be headed to the disabled list with a knee injury; a huge loss to a team that has lost six in a row, doesn’t play well against teams above .500, and are now looking over their shoulder to make sure the Reds aren’t knocking next.
The Pirates don’t seem too concerned with anything but winning. Winners of three in a row and owners of the best record in baseball, the atmosphere has become electric in Pittsburgh. Exciting for anyone who is a fan of baseball in general to see one of the most beautiful parks in baseball filled to (just about) to capacity. They now own a two and a half game lead over the Cardinals and with two left against them could increase that number before the weekend. With their next few weeks scheduled series against the Marlins, Padres, Rockies, Giants and Brewers they will have to take advantage of the schedule while taking care of business against the Cardinals in St. Louis next month.
Meanwhile in Washington the Nationals are succumbing to the pressure of being labeled the front-runners for the National League pennant and World Series. 4-9 since the All-Star break, 1-8 against teams above .500, and are four games under .500 on the season. Davey Johnson seems intent on making sure this is it for him in Washington. He’s had a riff this season with the best player on his team and the general manager, and has recently lamented that he’s done. There is a lot of baseball left, but at this rate the Nationals need to turn things on in a hurry or they won’t make it past August with any real hope of catching a Wild Card spot.
The desperation of the Rangers to find a bat before the trade deadline was obvious but ultimately unsuccessful. With the Biogenesis saga looming, the Rangers are faced with a four-game deficit in their division, Nelson Cruz and his 25 home runs impending suspension, and a Wild Card race that, also, sees them on the outside looking in. That’s because the Orioles and Yankees sandwich them, and they both won’t go without a fight. In fact, with Baltimore employing Manny Machado, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones, and the Yankees getting Derek Jeter back (with Granderson on the horizon) it’s going to be a tough task toppling any of the teams in the race.
Cleveland has been the dark horse (that I thought they would be since March) in the race, even playing themselves within two games of the suddenly vulnerable Detroit Tigers. Faced, themselves, with a huge suspension of Johnny Peralta from the Biogenesis fallout, they were involved in the three team trade that brought Jose Iglesias but I don’t see that being enough. If Cleveland continues to play this way, the Tigers could end up in the same fight the Rangers have found themselves in.
Baseball is getting exciting down the stretch, folks. What’s more, it involves passionate fan bases that haven’t seen this in a while. Don’t miss it.