MLB Playoff Wrap: Boston Red Sox Take Hold of First Place

This week we have been keeping tabs on the MLB playoff races as they continue to evolve, but today, instead of covering each and every team in the playoff hunt, we’re going to hone in on the AL East, which saw some interesting developments on Wednesday.

After the Orioles lost their early game yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays, they were not going to make up the game that separated them and the Sox/Jays duo atop the AL East and first wild card spot. The East Coast games saw the Yankees complete their sweep of Toronto, and out in San Diego the Red Sox took advantage by beating the Padres 7-2 to earn a one game lead in the division.

With the win, the Red Sox now have a 56.6 percent chance of winning the AL East, and a 90.2 percent chance of making the playoffs according to FanGraphs. With 23 games left for Boston, there is still a lot of baseball to be played, but a three game set over the weekend against their closest competition in Toronto could help pad their lead, or add to the intrigue.

The rest of their games will be played against divisional opponents, with seven against the Orioles (3 home, 4 road), seven against the Yankees (4 home, 3 road), three against Tampa, and six against the Blue Jays, which includes their upcoming weekend series, and a home series to close out the season. The Red Sox have the advantage of controlling their own destiny at this point in time.

The most interesting development so far this week however was the Yankees sweep of Toronto in the Bronx. The Yanks sit 4.5 back of Boston in the division and have seven games left with Tampa Bay before season’s end, which could help them make up the 2.5 games separating them from the second wild card spot that Baltimore currently possesses. 

In between New York and Baltimore are the Tigers (1 back) and Astros (2), and while those two teams have much better odds of making the playoffs (45.9% and 22.4% to the Yankees’ 8.5%), New York has head-to-head match-ups left with the two teams that currently hold playoff positions. This will either propel them into the playoffs, or knock them out. The Tigers just dropped two of three to the White Sox while the Yankees swept Toronto, which in the short-term is an example of two teams heading in opposite directions.

On the Docket This Weekend

On Thursday, the Yankees will take on the Rays to begin their series, while the Astros will finish up their four-game series in Cleveland with prospect David Paulino getting the call for Houston against Trevor Bauer.

The Red Sox travel to Toronto to begin their series with Rick Porcello (19-3, 3.23) taking on Marco Estrada (8-7, 3.56) in the opener. Baltimore will be in Detroit for a very intriguing weekend series that could see one team take a big step backward. Both are bubble teams anyway, so this could be one team’s chance to prove they belong. That series will begin with Kevin Gausman (7-10) going up against rookie sensation Michael Fulmer (10-6, 2.77). After concluding their series with Cleveland, the Astros will head back home to welcome the Chicago Cubs in what could be a big statement series. Jon Lester (14-4, 2.61) will take on another Astros rookie in Joe Musgrove (2-3, 5.06).

Quick NL Notes

The Giants bullpen imploded yet again in their 6-5 loss in Colorado. Closer Santiago Casilla recorded just one out in the ninth, allowing the Rockies to score two off of him which tied the game, before he was pulled. After hitting the only batter he faced in Charlie Blackmon, Josh Osich was also pulled in favor of veteran reliever Joe Nathan who was making just his second appearance out of the Giants ‘pen. He gave up a single to Nick Hundley and a game-winning double to pinch-hitter Cristhian Adames to put the entire San Francisco relief corps into question with just a few weeks left.

The Giants have been struggling in the second half, so the loss isn’t necessarily newsworthy. Rather, the fact that the Cardinals loss and the Mets win has them tied for the second wild card with both teams sitting just half a game behind San Francisco. Now a misstep in what has been a second half of missteps could have the Giants on the outside of the postseason picture looking in.

St. Louis is the only one of the three teams to play on Thursday, so they will either move up to tie the Giants, or take a slight step back and give the Mets sole possession of the second wild card.

All three clubs have soft match-ups this weekend, with the Giants in Arizona, the Mets in Atlanta and the Cardinals at home against the Brewers. If there were ever a time that the Giants were going to rebound, this weekend may be it. With Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore slated to start the trio of games in the desert and no Zack Greinke slated to oppose them, the Giants have been dealt a winning hand. Whether or not they ante up could go a long way in determining the wild card race.

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