The Tuesday afternoons in May, the Saturday evenings in July, and the rubber matches on Mondays have finally added up and gotten the teams to the last third of the season. The non-waiver trade deadline has passed, and the competition for a playoff berth begins in earnest.
The play-off race is important, but first we have to acknowledge Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners. Iwakuma pitched a no hitter against the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He becomes the fourth Mariner to throw a complete no-no.
In the AL East, the Blue Jays have declared that they aren’t chasing a Wild Card spot anymore: they are in pursuit of the AL East pennant. They swept the New York Yankees the weekend of August 8th, and after an 11 game winning streak, the Blue Jays are within half a game of the AL East leading Yankees. The Blue Jays will spend the rest of August facing teams who are currently .500 or better so they have an uphill battle for the pennant. They are currently 3 games up for the 1st AL Wild Card spot.
The NL East had been dominated by the Washington Nationals for most of the season but they have faltered since the All-Star Break. In a matchup between two good teams, the Nationals lost 2 of their 3 games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Of course, there is no shame in losing to a Kershaw or a Greinke. A highlight of the series was Jimmy Rollins gesturing that he saw and appreciated Michael Taylor (and his great arm) out in outfield as Rollins stood at second base. A nice, lighthearted moment between the 24 year old outfielder and the 36 year old shortstop.
The Mets (The Mets!!! The spring’s most injured team!!!) now lead the NL East by 4.5 games, and have gone 7-3 in their last 10. As a Phillies fan, I am required to remind all of you that anything can happen. Phillies fans all remember coming from 7 games back in the NL East with only 17 games to play to allow the team to win the first of their 5 NL East Pennants.
In a matchup of the NL Central, the Cardinals took 2 out of 3 games from the Pirates. This puts the Cardinals a challenging 6 games up for the NL Central title. The Pirates remain in the driver’s seat for the first NL Wild Card slot, however, with a slight 1.5 game advantage over the second place Cubs. The Pirates play six games against the Cubs in the last two weeks of the season, so we should see some great baseball. The Cubs haven’t been in the postseason since 2008 and it’s been a hard road since then. The Cubs have some great young players, and they have all the parts in place for a serious World Series run sometime in the next five years. Cubs fans can only hope that that 1908 World Series pennant won’t be so lonely anymore and we all, as baseball fans, can move on from the memory of 2003.
The AL Central leading Kansas City Royals are 12 games up in their division and have the best record in the AL. There are still 6 1/2 weeks left in the season, but considering how aggressive the Royals were at the trade deadline, and the lead they have in the AL Central, I would go out on a tiny branch and pencil them (lightly) into a play-off berth.
In the AL West, Houston has edged out the Los Angeles Angels to take a 2.5 game lead in the AL West, with the Angels currently residing in that second Wild Card spot. The Astros won against the Tigers on Friday with Keuchel racking up another win in an impressive sophomore season. If I had a AL Cy Young ballot, he would certainly be on it.
Finally, there is the NL West. The Los Angeles Dodgers and their 300 million dollar payroll have suffered some key injuries to their rotation this season. They’ve struggled to balance the playing needs of their outfield, Yasiel Puig .241/.311/.421 is having somewhat of a down year, and Joc Pederson.220/.359/.447 is struggling to make adjustments at the plate as a full time MLB player. With a bullpen sporting an ERA of over 6.00, this puts pressure on starters to go deeper into games and means “quality starts” can be wasted. The Dodgers were expected to run away with the NL West, but currently lead the Giants by a mere 2.5 games.
The Giants have been bitten by the injury bug hard this season as well. They currently have 2 outfielders, their catcher who is not Buster Posey, and their 2nd baseman on the Disabled List. The Giants need help, and are currently trying to trade for Chase Utley. Utley has full 10/5 rights so he would have to approve any trade. Utley is in the last year of his contract, he’s 36 years old, and his knees are finicky. Trade rumors have intensified when he wasn’t in the line-up on Sunday. A trade for Utley seems likely. However, in the opinion of a certain columnist, seeing him play in another uniform would break her heart.