MLB

Pressure's on in baseball's final week

Ken Rosenthal previews the MLB on FOX  games this weekend.
Ken Rosenthal previews the MLB on FOX games this weekend.
Share This Story

Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE>>
 
   
 

Buck Showalter sees the anguish in the other dugout. It’s the best kind of agony — but agony nonetheless.

MOST PAINFUL OF ALL

After all the blown saves and nail-biting losses for St. Louis, Thursday's collapse could undo the season.

“One of the toughest things to do is finish off a good season,” the Baltimore manager said, his team having played a succession of contenders recently. “Those games don’t go by fast, the last two weeks. It’s like an eternity, trying to get the math right where you can go on.”

To which the Red Sox, Rays, Angels, Braves, Cardinals and even Giants reply: No kidding, Buck.

For them, completing a 6-4-3 double play feels harder than combinatorial theory.

The wild-card races are so close now that there’s a negligible difference in stress between upstart and front-runner. There are six days left in the regular season. SIX. If you haven’t clinched a playoff spot by now, you are feeling it.

Come to think of it, we’re still waiting on division clinchers for the Rangers, Brewers and Diamondbacks.

(To be fair, though, Boston is still enduring the greatest pressure of all. In New England, watching a nine-game lead on Sept. 1 melt to a two-game lead on Sept. 23 feels something like flying from Reykjavík to Beijing . . . through Heathrow . . . with the sinus infection from hell . . . sitting beside someone droning on about their gout . . . on both segments.)

SEPTEMBERS TO REMEMBER

Take a look at baseball's most epic pennant race swoons and surges.

Fans in Boston and Atlanta don’t want to hear this, but those of us who crave down-to-the-wire races owe their teams a great debt of gratitude. During the final weekend of regular-season baseball this year, we have eight series that matter in determining the postseason field: Red Sox at Yankees; Braves at Nationals; Blue Jays at Rays; Mariners at Rangers; Cubs at Cardinals; Marlins at Brewers; Athletics at Angels; and Giants at Diamondbacks.

Another series — Orioles at Tigers — will help determine whether Detroit gets home-field advantage in the first round of the American League playoffs.

All told, nine of the 15 series matter. That’s a remarkable ratio, given the Labor Day grumblings that September would be devoid of drama. And given the taut, two-game margins in both wild-card races — Boston over Tampa Bay, Atlanta over St. Louis — there’s an excellent chance that the postseason field won’t be determined until the final series (and maybe the final day) of the year.

The Rays were Thursday’s big winner — and not just because they shellacked the newly crowned AL East champion Yankees by a 15-8 count. More important, they sprang off the canvas after being swept in the Bronx in Wednesday’s doubleheader, turning the vise on Boston once more in advance of the Sox-Yankees grudge match this weekend in New York.

For what it’s worth, Friday’s pitching probables portend victories for both Boston and Tampa Bay. The Red Sox have the advantage over the Yankees (Jon Lester vs. Freddy Garcia), and the Rays have ace David Price to oppose Toronto’s talented-yet-erratic Brandon Morrow.

HEAVEN HELP THEM

In the midst of a potentially historic fall, the Braves are looking for any positive they can find. At least the Cards helped Thursday.

At this point, a three-game lead would have felt much more comfortable for the Red Sox. But the Rays, once again, refused to go away — even after the first-game collapse Wednesday that would have demoralized a lesser team.

The Cardinals and Angels will be similarly tested on Friday, after each endured a crushing, last-at-bat loss Thursday.

St. Louis was three outs away from drawing to within one game of Atlanta. The Cardinals had a 6-2 lead — at home — with closer-for-now Jason Motte on the mound. But Motte walked Willie Harris to lead off the inning, shortstop Rafael Furcal muffed a potential double-play ball, and the unraveling began.

The Mets scored six runs in the inning and won, 8-6. Motte, Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas were among the culpable relievers — making many in the heartland wonder if Heath Bell, still a Padres player, might have been able to retire the side in order. Now the Cardinals must put their faith in ace Chris Carpenter in the series opener against the archrival Cubs.

The Angels’ loss wasn’t quite as shocking — their greatest, latest lead in Toronto was 3-1 entering the seventh — but it had the same effect in the standings. Mike Scioscia used six relievers, and the last of them — rookie right-hander Garrett Richards — surrendered a 12th-inning walk-off home run to Edwin Encarnacion.

MLB STANDINGS

Who's clinched? Who's still in the playoff picture? Check all the divisional races.

It was the sort of thing that makes for an unpleasant 2,500-mile flight to Orange County.

Win that game, and the Angels could have arrived at Angel Stadium on Friday with a three-game winning streak and ace Jered Weaver on the mound. Instead, they face a three-game deficit — and are chasing both the Red Sox and Rays.

This is the type of torment that moved the genial Moises Alou to declare, upon completion of the Mets’ epic collapse in 2007, “I hate baseball right now.” We haven’t heard a similar quote yet this year. But stay tuned. Even at this late hour, it’s still a little early for that.

Tagged: Red Sox, Angels, Yankees, Blue Jays, Cubs, Mets, Cardinals, Padres, Rays, Jason Motte

More Stories From Jon Paul Morosi

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



MLB Videos

Bautista talks Derek Jeter's final All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Jose Bautista discusses Derek Jeter's career and his final appearance in the MLB...

Jeter honored to play in last All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Derek Jeter compares his first All-Star Game experience with his last, Mike Trou...

Matheny defends Wainwright: He's out there to compete Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Mike Matheny comments on the media's reaction to Adam Wainwright's joke about le...

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..