In a manifestation of how interconnected baseball can be, by winning the nightcap of their doubleheader yesterday the Rangers assured not only themselves but also the Yankees and Orioles spots in the post-season playoffs. It’s still to be determined who plays whom and where and when.
ESPN’s “If the season ended today” feature shows it would be the As and Yankees in the AL Wild Card #2 game; the winner moves on to play the Rangers. The Tigers and Orioles would play in the other series. The opponents could change depending on the results of the next three days.
Tampa Bay has a faint hope, but if it loses once or the As win once, the Florida team is done. It could still have an impact, though, as it starts a three-game home series with the Os today. Today’s game between the two is free on MLB.tv at 4:10PM PDT.
The Yankees, meanwhile, start a three-game series with the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. I’m sure the schedulers thought “Ooh, man, this will be a meaningful series which will determine the winner of the AL East.” It still may, but the Red Sox won’t be in the mix. Little did the schedulers know how completely the Bosox would collapse this year. They lost their 90th game of the year yesterday, which ensures their worst record since 1966.
Update: I thought I had the situation covered, but David Schoenfield goes into further possibilities at ESPN’s Sweet Spot blog.
The Dodgers won their fifth in a row Sunday afternoon, defeating the Rockies 7 – 1. Josh Beckett got his second win as a Dodger, scattering six hits over six innings and giving up just one run, a home run by Andrew Brown. Matt Kemp, AJ Ellis, and Luis Cruz each hit two-run home runs for the Dodgers.
Fun fact: “Five of Ellis’ 12 home runs and 18 of his 50 RBIs have come against the Rockies.”
The Cardinals, by winning today, keep their two-game advantage for Wild Card #2. They see Cincinnati come in to St. Louis to play three games, and the Reds are trying to secure home-field advantage, so they’re probably not going to roll over. If they manage to beat the Cards two out of three and the Dodgers sweep the Giants there’d be a single-game playoff to break a tie for the Wild Card spot. If the Reds sweep and the Dodgers sweep, the Dodgers, almost unbelievably after the last month of inept play, would get to play the winner of Wild Card #1 in a single game for the right to go on to the NLDS. The winner of that wild card appears in all likelihood to be the Braves, who remain three games in back of the Nationals for the NL East title with three games to go. Their opponent for those last three games will be the collapsing Pirates, so a sweep isn’t out of the question. The Nationals play three against the Phillies. With a magic number of one, all they have to do is beat the Philadelphians once.
It should be an exciting next three days. And I haven’t even written anything about the American League playoff situation, which is still as muddled as it can be!
Beckett v. de la Rosa (Jorge, not Rubby!) today, with the Dodgers starting their game two hours after the Cardinals and Nats go at it again. The Cards – Nationals game is the free MLB game, in case anyone cares more for baseball than football, and it starts at 11:15AM PDT. Ross Detwiler starts for the Nationals and Lance Lynn starts for the Redbirds. The Dodgers game is on Prime Ticket and begins at 1:10PM PDT.
Beckett’s been pretty good for the Dodgers since he arrived from Boston, but he’s been unlucky. He’s put up a 3.16 ERA but has only one win to show for it, with three losses. The Dodgers’ offense has scored only 13 runs in his six games with them.
Ellis, M, 2B
Victorino, S, LF
Kemp, M, CF
Gonzalez, A, 1B
Ramirez, H, SS
Cruz, L, 3B
Ethier, A, RF
Ellis, A, C
Beckett, J, P
Breaking news: the Cardinals have a 9 – 4 lead over the Nationals in the 5th inning.
The Dodgers’ 3 – 0 victory this evening coupled with St. Louis’s 6 – 4 loss to Washington at home in extra innings has pushed the Dodgers one step closer to Wild Card #2. Matt Kemp hit two home runs and the bullpen was stellar following Blanton’s strong six innings. They’re still 2 games behind the Cardinals, but the Cards’ magic number remains 3. That means at least the first game with the Giants on Monday will be meaningful.
That ought to be interesting. Which team will come out on top in this ancient rivalry this time? The Giants, as they did in 1951 and 1982 (curses be upon you, Bobby Thomson and Joe Morgan!), or the Dodgers, as happened in 1959, 1993 and 2004?
It’s Blanton v. Chatwood today at 5:00PM PDT in Dodger Stadium. Blanton’s had little success since coming over to the Dodgers from the Phillies, posting a 1-4 record with a 5.57 ERA in nine starts. In his last start he showed some improvement, giving up one run in 5 2/3 innings against the Reds and getting a no-decision for his trouble. Chatwood is 5-5 with a 5.49 ERA this season, but he too had a pretty good game his last time out, giving up two runs on three hits over 5 2/3 innings to the D-Backs and getting the win.
The Cardinals’ magic number is three. The Dodgers have to win and hope the Nationals can do their part by beating St. Louis this evening. The Nats send out Jordan Zimmermann against the Cards’ Kyle Lohse.
Punto 2B .345
Ethier RF .285
Kemp CF .303
Gonzalez 1B .276
Ramirez SS .251
Victorino LF .252
Cruz 3B .306
Ellis C .268
For the third game in a row the Dodgers scored 8 runs and won a game they had to win. This time they went a few steps better than the previous night, with Kershaw and Josh Wall denying the Rockies even a single run. Kershaw is now 13 -9 on the season with an ERA of 2.58 and 221 strikeouts. More importantly, as reported at the ESPN LA Dodger blog, Kershaw “told Mattingly he felt ‘nothing’ in his injured right hip entering Friday night’s start at Dodger Stadium.”
Fans can be forgiven if they wonder “where was this offense for the first three weeks of the month?” As commenter scooplew noted in the game thread, the Dodgers scored 57 runs in their first 21 games this month for an average of 2.71 runs per game. In the last three games they’ve scored 24 runs.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the Cardinals whomped the Nationals today, 12 – 2. That reduces their magic number for wild card #2 to 3; any combination of Dodger losses and Cardinals wins totaling 3 means the Cardinals are in and the Dodgers are toast.
With Matt Kemp leading the way, the Dodgers won a laugher 8 – 2 this afternoon in San Diego. Kemp was 4 for 5 with a home run and a double (his 20th of each on the season) good for four RBI, Nick Punto had three singles, and Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Rivera all chipped in with two hits apiece. Even Aaron Harang, who had a no-hitter until two outs in the fifth in this game, also doubled.
That means the Dodgers are four back in the 2nd wild card chase, awaiting the results from the Houston – St. Louis game. Houston was leading 2 – 0 going to the bottom of the sixth in Houston as the Dodgers finished up their win. If Houston hangs on the Dodgers are 3 1/2 games behind the Cards with seven games to play. The Cards have six to play after tonight, and they’ll be off tomorrow while the Dodgers play the rubber game of the series with the Padres.
I managed to see the ESPN clips on SportsCenter. That ninth inning was a perfect example of the Dodgers’ last half of the season — out of synch. If Ethier had hit the fly ball that Kemp did the game would probably have been tied and it would have gone to extra innings, but no. Andre struck out, his third strikeout of the game.
Here’s ESPN’s Game Report.
The team is 4 1/2 games back of the Cardinals with 8 games to play. I don’t want to throw in the towel, but it would take a small miracle for them to get past the Brewers and the Cards to make it into the 2nd wild card spot from here. It’s hard to believe this team was 17 games over .500 on June 18 and it’s now only 4 over.
As foul tip commented below, a 3 – 3 split with two division leaders tied with one another for the most wins in baseball (92) isn’t bad. Considering how poor the offense has been for three weeks, if we’re honest with ourselves we might admit we didn’t expect results even that good. Now if they can sweep the Padres before coming home to the beautiful setting of Dodger Stadium to play the Rockies and Giants, there might still be a little hope left. The Cardinals have three with the Astros starting today, and the Houston team is redefining the word hapless in its last season in the National League. But the Cards then have to play the Nats and the Reds to close out the season. The Dodgers could get a little help from those two teams.
Let’s be realistic here. The Dodgers are fighting for the 2nd wild card slot. Winning that buys you the chance to participate in a one-game playoff with the winner of the 1st wild card slot. The winner of that game goes on to play in the five-game NLDS, and from that point on the postseason is the same as it has been since the wild card was instituted in 1995. Unless the offense gets untracked over the next week, they won’t have even that slim opportunity.
Just for fun, from MLB:
If the postseason started today …
Wild Card: A’s at Orioles
Division Series: Yankees vs. White Sox | Rangers vs. Wild Card winner
Wild Card: Cardinals at Braves
Division Series: Reds vs. Giants | Nationals at Wild Card winner
• For the 2012 postseason, the team with the better record will play the first two games on the road to start the Division Series.
In the American League I’m rooting hard for the Orioles to overtake the Yankees in the AL East and the Tigers to catch the White Sox in the AL Central. While no Dodgers fan needs to explain why he’d like the Yankees to lose, I used to live in Washington DC when the Orioles were the better team of the two within rooting distance, and I’ve apparently got some residual memory of them. With the Tigers I’d like to see Verlander, Fister, Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in the postseason.
Alas, no joy from the Dodgers today, as the Reds’ Mat Latos shut them down for eight innings and Aroldis Chapman did the same in the ninth. I suppose they could claim a moral victory since Chapman didn’t strike a Dodger out, but that seems small consolation.
By winning the Reds clinch the NL Central, and the Dodgers fall to three games behind the Cardinals in the second wild card race.
For good measure, the Oregon State Beavers defeated the UCLA Bruins 27-20. UCLA will in all likelihood fall out of the Top 25 rankings.
The next two games I’m interested in today both begin at 4:30 pm HST. 22nd-ranked Arizona (an alma mater of mine) plays 3rd-ranked Oregon in Eugene and Nevada travels to Hawai’i to resume an old rivalry in a new conference (the Mountain West).