One more week of MLB drama
I’m going to begin by saying something that might seem to you mildly controversial: I don’t really care about all these what-if-there’s-a-four-way-tie-for-the-Wild-Card!) scenarios.
Certain writers write the same columns every September, and every September it doesn’t actually happen. I mean, it was fun the first two or three times, but at this point I can’t be the only one with Crazy Tiebreaker Scenario Fatigue, can I? If there’s still a reasonable chance for something Crazy next Saturday morning, please wake me up.
In the meantime, let’s look at the drama that is still likely, and 98 percent of that drama’s now in the American League.
The National League? I’m writing this Sunday afternoon, before the Pirates-Cubs game. But the Pirates have now won eight straight, and even if they lose to the Cubs in their series finale, they’ll still own a commanding 4½-game lead in the wild-card standings. With only seven days left in the season.
But wait! I misspoke. Because if the Pirates beat the Cubs Sunday night, they’ll trail the Cardinals by only two games in the N.L. Central ... with the Cardinals visiting Pittsburgh for a three-game series, beginning Monday night. If the Pirates can take two (or three!) of three, that will be one incredible story beginning Friday, when the Pirates host the Reds and the Cardinals visit the Braves.
So that’s something to watch. Again, especially if the Pirates win (or won, if you’re reading this later) Sunday night.
But most of the best action’s still in the American League, and especially in the wild-card standings.
In the East and the Central, there’s nothing much to write about. That is, barring a tremendous and highly unlikely collapse by the Blue Jays, who have lapped the rest of Major League Baseball in run differential.
In the West, there’s still at least a hint of drama after the Astros beat the Rangers in their last two meetings of the season, leaving Houston “only” – “only,” because it could be a lot worse – 2½ games out of first place. The Astros finish with three in Seattle, a day off, then three in Arizona. I recently heard someone on the radio say it’s “unfair” for an American League contender to finish their season with three games in a National League ballpark, but a) how is it unfair, exactly, and b) what’s do be done about it? Anyway, the Astros’ biggest problem isn’t that they’re losing their DH for that last series; it’s that they’re 29-46 on the road this season.
Meanwhile, the Rangers finish with seven at home: three against the Tigers, and four against the Angels ... which doesn’t help the Rangers much, since the Angels enter Week 26 just a half-game behind the Astros in the wild-card standings, which means they’re almost certain to be fighting like hell for most or all of their last series. Before flying to the Metroplex, the Halos host the A’s for three games. Alas, they’ll be without two of their best relief pitchers, as closer Huston Street and set-up man Joe Smith are both out, Street for good and Smith indefinitely.
And finally we’ve (still!) got the Minnesota Twins, only a game-and-a-half behind the Astros for the second wild card. The Twins finish with four in Cleveland and three at home against the Royals, who probably won’t be trying terribly hard. The Tribe probably will be trying hard, though, considering they still have a microscopic shot at the playoffs, if they win out and everybody else collapses.
Hey, this could all be over by Friday morning. Or all those premature stories about three- and four-way ties might mature. Probably something between those, though.