Talking baseball pennant races around the hype and hysteria of fantasy football madness is about as quaint as asking someone if they've taken a chance to stop and smell the roses lately.
A few weeks ago, it seemed like there wouldn't be any win-or-go-home pennant races, only competitions determining division champs and wild cards from the NL Central and AL West.
Fortunately, races have become more interesting than expected.
The NL Central is a three-way shootout redolent of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and the AL Wild Card race has broken open.
In the National League, the Braves and Dodgers have maintained their cushy division leads and will cruise into the postseason as the #1 and 2 seeds. Both NL Wild Cards will come out of the NL Central. First, a look back at how the races looked on August 1st:
NL Division Leaders, Aug 1
NLe: Atlanta 63-45, .583
NLc: Pittsburgh 65-42, .607
NLw: LA Dodgers 57-49, .538
NL Wild Card Standings, Aug 1
WC1: St Louis 62-44, .585 +3.5 GB
WC2: Cincinnati 60-49, .550, -- GB
Arizona 55-52, .514, 4.0 GB
Washington 52-56, .481, 7.5 GB
The D'backs and Nationals aren't sweating any contenders, as evidenced by their lack of August transactions. Neither club added anyone for a playoff push. The Nationals added David DeJesus for a couple of days, flipping him to the Rays, who are actually contending for a postseason spot.
NL Division Leaders, Sept 8
NLe: Atlanta 85-56, .603
NLc: St Louis 82-60, .577
NLw: LA Dodgers 83-58, .589
NL Wild Card Standings, Sept 8
WC1: Pittsburgh 81-60, .574 -- GB
WC2: Cincinnati 81-62, .566, -- GB
Arizona 72-69, .511, 8.0 GB
Washington 72-69, .511, 8.0 GB
D'backs and Nationals fans remind themselves that the '07 Rockies won the pennant after trailing by 7 games on Sept 11, and the 2011 Cardinals won the World Series after being 10.5 GB on Sept 6.
There is tremendous value in winning the division over having to play a one-game playoff for the right to play the #1 seed. There's plenty of room on the Pirates' bandwagon. If your favorite team has been eliminated, like mine, hop on and get comfortable!
The Cardinals shut out the Pirates today, behind a strong performance from Adam Wainwright. The Reds defeated the powerful Dodgers, and have shown more spunk since getting Tony Cingrani back from the DL, and Billy Hamilton to professional-pinch-runner.
Over in the American League, Rangers, Indians, Orioles, Yankees, and Royals fans are fortunate that the streaky Tampa Bay Rays have been rolling more gutters than strikes the past five weeks.
The Rays' streaky play has the following winning % by month:
Apr: .462 Win %
May: .643 Win %
Jun: .464 Win %
Jul: .808 Win %
Aug: .423 Win %
Sep: .333 Win %
From June 23 to July 30, the Rays went 26 and 6. Since August 25, they've gone just 3 and 11.
AL Division Leaders, Aug 1
ALe: Boston 65-44, .596
ALc: Detroit 61-45, .575
ALw: Oakland 63-45, .583
AL Wild Card Standings, Aug 1
WC1: Tampa Bay 64-44, .593 +1.0 GB
WC2: Cleveland 59-48, .513, -- GB
Baltimore 59-49, .546, 0.5 GB
Texas 59-49, .546, 0.5 GB
NY Yankees 56-51, .523, 3.0 GB
Kansas City 53-51, .510, 4.5 GB
About five weeks later, the consolation to the AL West title will likely be the #1 wild card team. The race for the second wild card remains close. The streaky Rays have been ice cold lately. Four teams trail the Rays by less than 4 games.
AL Division Leaders, Sept 8
ALe: Boston 87-57, .604
ALc: Detroit 82-60, .577
ALw: Oakland 82-60, .577
AL Wild Card Standings, Sept 8
WC1: Texas 80-61, .567 +3.0 GB
WC2: Tampa Bay 77-64, .546 -- GB
Cleveland 76-65, .539, 1.0 GB
Baltimore 76-65, .539, 1.0 GB
NY Yankees 75-67, .528, 2.5 GB
Kansas City 74-68, .518, 3.5 GB
The Rays were never really in it tonight against the Mariners. It was a tough day for the Yankees; they could have gained ground on the Rays, like the victorious Indians, Orioles, and Royals.
We'll try to keep up with this story the next few weeks, with anything interesting. Holler at us in the discussion below. Thanks!
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