We’ve come to this – the final weekend of the season. Already, the Cubs have shuttered Wrigley Field across the street, going out with a win against their hated rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Three to four games a piece remain for every team, with a third of those teams locked into positioning battles for the postseason. There’s been a few interesting developments, but as far as the actual participants, our picture is pretty much set. I tossed around several ideas for the lead for this column, things like awards, retirees, winners and losers of the season, but all of my ideas are probably better suited for October columns. So, without further ado…
State of the Races
- Baltimore has clinched the AL East and home field in the divisional round
- The Tigers have clinched a postseason berth (Central or Wild Card)
- The Angels have clinched the AL West and are on the verge of clinching home field throughout the AL playoffs
- The Nationals have clinched the NL East and are on the verge of clinching home field throughout the NL playoffs
- The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates have clinched postseason berths
- The Dodgers have clinched the NL West, and are on the verge of clinching home field in the divisional round
There are currently four races of any real interest remaining. There would be five had the Giants not gone into a bit of a cold slump over the last week and a half. (More on that below)
Note: All standings and playoff percentages are current as of last night’s games. You’re welcome.
1. Detroit Tigers – 88 – 70 – 100.0% (clinched playoff berth)
2. Kansas City Royals – 86-72, 2 games back, E – 4, 99.9%
3. Cleveland Indians – 83-76, 6 games back, 0.1%
That series between the Tigers and Royals last weekend wasn’t a world-ender for either team, though the Tigers probably cemented the division title by taking two of three from K.C. Either way, both teams are going to be shooting for October magic. The Indians are here purely as a courtesy – that and they technically still have a chance. I also technically have a chance of playing the lead role in Captain America 3.
AL Wild Card
1. Kansas City Royals – even
2. Oakland A’s – 86-72 – even – 99.8%
3. Seattle Mariners – 83-75 – 3 games back – 0.1%
4. Cleveland Indians – 4 games back – 0.1%
Meanwhile, Oakland’s slide continues…though it’s been countered by a five game losing streak by Seattle. The Mariners’ pitching staff has fallen off in a big way over the last few weeks. Regardless, even though they’re falling short, it’s been a great season for Seattle, which looks to finally be turning the corner after years of mediocrity.
1. St. Louis Cardinals – 88-70 – 100.0% – (clinched playoff berth)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates – 86-72 – 1.5 games back, E – 4, 100.0% (clinched playoff berth)
3. Milwaukee Brewers – 81-77 – 7 games back, 0.1%
Not only do the Pirates still have a shot at claiming the Central, they are in position to have the fall back reward of playing at home in the Wild Card round, thanks to…
NL Wild Card
1. Pittsburgh Pirates – 1 game up
2. San Francisco Giants – 85-73 – even – 99.9%
3. Milwaukee Brewers – 4.5 games back
The Giants going into a 3-7 tailspin as the Bucs counter with an 8-2 run, falling out of the race for the division title and slipping into the role of the away team in the play-off Wild Card game. Every game counts in September, and the Giants are faced with the unenviable position of backing into the postseason. Which means that there’s a high percentage chance of the Wild Card game happening at PNC Park for the second year in a row. And if anyone remembers the game from last year…(breaks down sobbing)…that bodes poorly for any visiting team.
Big League Chew of the Week Award – Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals
There are several elements that have gone into Washington’s revival – the sheer luck in drafting Stephen Strasberg and Bryce Harper back to back, key free agent signings, the development of the team through its farm system, but one of the biggest pieces was one that was roundly lambasted. When Jayson Werth signed with the Nats for $1.5 gabillionty dollars in the 2010/2011 off-season (dollar values approximate), analysts scorned the move – Werth had only had one 30 homer season, and was not exactly a cornerstone of the Philadelphia offense when he left. His defense was so-so. He didn’t bring any outstanding skills. What he ended up bringing, however, can be broken down into two simple factors:
- He’s a stable veteran who will produce consistently. Though the numbers won’t pop like those of a Giancarlo Stanton or Anthony Rizzo, he consistently provides value all across the board.
- Most importantly, he brought a certain respectability to the bedraggled Nationals franchise. His signing with the team was an endorsement to other players that the Nats should be taken seriously, and would be contenders in the near future. In addition, he brings a certain veteran presence to the clubhouse, having played a key role in the 2008 Phillies championship team.
Now, with the Nationals in position to take home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs, he’s heating up, going 10 for his last 32 with 9 walks and 6 runs scored in his last 10 games. Other players have stepped up, including breakout-player Anthony Rendon, leadoff hitter Denard Span, and slugger Adam LaRoche (finally heating up), and they’ve been bolstered by a sterling starting staff headlined by Jordan Zimmerman, Strasburg, and Doug Fister, but Werth drives the line-up, even more so than Harper. The Nationals are getting hot at the right time, and might be a safe bet to represent the Senior Circuit in the World Series.
Series to Watch This Weekend
(Besides Yankees at Red Sox, because it’s one of the best rivalries in all sport and Derek Jeter has to play his final game at Fenway Pahk, but seriously, enough Jeter farewells, there’s postseason baseball to be played, also the Yankees can suck it.)
3. Athletics at Rangers
The A’s are slumping. The Rangers are 9-1 over their last 10. This is where postseason spoilers come into play, and the Royals get their first postseason game in years….at home. Kaufmann Stadium goes nuts.
2. Royals at White Sox
The Royals clinching the postseason, after decade upon decade of futility, will happen on the road. It’ll still be an amazing sight.
1. Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Like I was gonna pick anything else. Besides, Pittsburgh is theoretically playing for the division. The Reds are looking to play spoiler. Johnny Cueto will be going for his 20th win on Sunday. Even though the berth is clinched, there’s still everything to play for.
Next time in “Thoughts from the Dugout”…the Wild Card Games Preview extravaganza!