The Fan has never seen a baseball race like this. Oh yes, there have been two teams that went down to the wire. That is exciting in and of itself. But five teams tied for the wildcard in the National League? Three other teams within a game and a half behind those five? The race is stupifying. And the best part is that we aren't all tied up in June. This is the end of August--heading into September.
The Cubs, now a game and a half out, have lost two heartbreaking games to the Cardinals as their starters pitched with purpose and passion only to have the bullpen throw the games away. Last night's Cubs needed five pitchers to get three outs. That's when you know you're in trouble. The sad thing about the two games is that Sammy Sosa drove in nearly all of the Cubs' runs.
On the other side of that series, the two wins for the Cardinals has to drive them to an emotional push. Those kinds of wins bring a team together and make the fight much more cohesive...not to mention exciting.
The poor Phillies and Marlins can't win a game. To know how far they were ahead in this wildcard race, consider that the Phillies have lost nine of ten while the Marlins have lost eight of ten and it wasn't until tonight that the pack caught them to logjam the race.
The Expos have to be the scariest team right now as they are hitting and pitching very well while making great plays on defense. I wouldn't want to play them right now. All of the other contenders have played near .500 baseball. The wildcard race is like a great big ferris wheel spinning slowly into the night.
Nearly as interesting is the see-saw between the A's, the Red Sox and the Mariners. It's very weird looking at the wildcard standings and seeing the the Red Sox a half a game up on the Mariners. The Mariners? The Mariners haven't been the wildcard standings all year as they started on top in the AL West and stayed there until this week. Now they are two games back of the high flying A's.
You have to shake your head at the way a team suddenly loses their way. The Phillies and Marlins are now joined by the Mariners who have also lost eight of ten. Joel Pineiro was the ace of the Mariners early in the year. In his last two starts, he's only pitched eleven and two-thirds innings and has given up nine runs on fourteen hits. Meanwhile, Ichiro Suzuki has only six hits in his last forty-two at bats.
The race in the AL Central gets overlooked lately but the three teams at the top are all bunched up and any team can take it at this point.
The Fan will repeat himself one more time: Nick Johnson is the key to the Yankees lineup. Johnson's On Base Percentage for the year stands at .438 and he has scored 43 runs in 65 games.
And now it's time for the Fan's favorite boxscore players and how they fared the last seven days:
- Jose Reyes. I had to start with Reyes as the twenty year old has been flat out electrifying so far. In his last seven games, Reyes has batted .333 with three homers, six RBI and six runs scored. The youngster is now batting .312 for the season.
- Rocco Baldelli. Rocco had a quiet week as he batted .268 with three RBI. Baldelli is now batting .298 for the season.
- Coco Crisp. The speedy Crisp had a great week with a guady .429 average with seven runs scored and two RBI. Crisp has now scored 46 runs in just 71 games.
- Mark Teixeira. Teixeira had a miserable week with just three hits in twenty-two at bats. His season average sank to .245.
- Hank Blalock. Teixeira's teammate didn't do much better, batting .167 for the week. He did hit two homers though, good for three RBI. Blalock is still batting a solid .310 for the season.
- Pat Burrell. Burrell actually batted .267 for the week with two doubles, a triple and two homers to go along with five RBI. Burrell has crept over the Mendoza Line and is hitting .202 for the season.
- Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera's tough week matched the Marlins this week as the rookie only batted .217 for the week though he did have a homer and three RBI.
- Sean Burroughs. Jeff's son went crazy this week as he had fifteen hits in twenty-nine at bats! Six of those hits were for extra bases as he scored five runs and drove in four. Burroughs is now up to .299 for the year.