AL East, AL West races in rarified air so far
Since divisional play began in 1969, only three times has a division had two teams with at least 100 wins.
That could happen again this year in the AL East – and maybe the AL West as well.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and Mariners are all on pace to win over 100 games, and they’ve created tight races atop those two divisions. With two wild cards in each league, those four teams have some breathing room in the race for the postseason, but there should be plenty of incentive to win the division title and avoid the one-game, winner-take-all scenario that the wild cards have to deal with.
The Yankees and Red Sox just played a three-game series in New York. The games weren’t all that suspenseful – they ended 8-1, 11-0 and 11-1, with the Yankees winning two of three.
The first time two teams from one division won at least 100 games was in 1980, when the Yankees (103-59) outlasted the Orioles (100-62) atop the AL East. A seven-game winning streak in mid-September helped New York hold on.
In 1993, the last year before the wild card, the Braves (104-58) and Giants (103-59) dueled all the way to the final day before San Francisco was done in by a 12-1 loss to the rival Dodgers. Atlanta was 10 games out on the morning of July 23 but went 49-16 the rest of the way.
The only time in the six-division era that a 100-win team failed to finish first was when Oakland went 102-60 in 2001 and still ended up 14 games behind a 116-win Seattle team.
None of the teams involved in those three previous examples made it to the World Series, so consider that a word of caution to this year’s American League behemoths.
Some other developments around the majors:
If the Mariners make the postseason this year, it will be their first appearance since that remarkable 2001 season. Baseball’s next-longest drought belongs to the Marlins, who haven’t made it since winning the World Series as a wild card in 2003.
The addition of extra wild cards has made it easier for teams to avoid long stretches without a postseason berth. The Padres haven’t made it since 2006 and the White Sox haven’t been in since 2008. Aside from those two teams, the Marlins and the Mariners, every major league franchise has made the postseason at least once since 2011.
The outfield wall in Toronto is high enough that it doesn’t lend itself to home run-robbing catches. Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar figured out a solution, however, planting a foot on the wall and using it to vault himself up while making a catch on a drive by Detroit’s Nicholas Castellanos. Even Castellanos applauded that catch Sunday.
LINES OF THE WEEK
Two from the Red Sox-Yankees series: Chris Sale allowed one hit in seven innings, striking out 11 in Boston’s 11-0 win Saturday night. The following evening, it was New York delivering an 11-1 blowout. Aaron Hicks hit three home runs for the Yankees in that game.
Sale has a 1.73 career ERA against the Yankees, best among pitchers with at least 10 starts against them since 1920. But Sunday’s six-homer barrage brought New York’s season total to 137, a franchise record for before the All-Star break.
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