Pennant Race Fever: September 28
The Yankees clinched the AL East title yesterday leaving five teams to battle for the final three spots to represent the AL in the postseason.
The Angels, Rangers, Tigers, Twins and Red Sox are the only teams still alive in the American League. The Rangers are the only team that could be eliminated today in the American League with a loss to the AL West leading Angels when they meet head-on today in Anaheim.
The Cardinals have already clinched the NL Central title while the Phillies and Braves vy for the NL East title. The Dodgers can reduce their magic number to one with a win today over the Pirates while the contending Rockies take the day off.
AL East: The Yankees clinched the AL East title on Sunday.
AL Central: The Tigers and Twins both lost and the magic number remains at six for the Tigers with a two game lead over the Twins.
The Twins are in Detroit to play a four game series with the Tigers. It is imperative that the Twins win at least three of these games to have a real chance at the AL Central title.
Rick Porcello (14-9) makes the biggest start of his career and a win would enhance his chances of winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. Nick Blackburn (11-11) will be facing Porcello.
AL West: The Rangers are in a must win situation today and the rest of the season since they are meeting the Angels late tonight in Anaheim. A loss would place them seven games behind the Angels with six games remaining.
Tommy Hunter (9-4) will get the start for the Rangers with Ervin Santana (7-8) on the mound for the Angels.
NL East: The Phillies have the best of the schedule to start the week in NL East action since they face the Astros who have been 2-8 in their last ten games. The Braves will be facing the Marlins who are 5-5 in their last ten games.
A Phillies win and Braves loss would reduce the Phillies magic number to one to clinch the NL East title and they would have a six game lead with six games left in the season.
Jair Jurjjens (13-10) will face Anibal Sanchez (3-7) of the Marlins while the Phillies start Cole Hamels (10-9) against Wilton Lopez (0-0) making his first major league start. The Braves can’t be too enamored with the Astros starting Lopez in such an important game that could affect their chances of winning the NL East title.
If Lopez doesn’t have his best stuff the Phillies sluggers will have an easy time of it.
NL Central: The Cardinals are waiting for the NLDS to start next week. The later start of the NLDS will give the Cardinals almost a two week wait from clinching to playing their first postseason game.
NL West: The Dodgers could reduce their magic number to one in the NL West if they defeat the Pirates in a game which starts at 12:35 ET today. The Rockies are idle today so they will be watching this game to see if the Pirates can give them some help today.
Hiroki Kuroda (8-6) will take the mound for the Dodgers while Zach Duke (10-15) will start for the Pirates.
The Dodgers will travel to San Diego tomorrow to play the Padres while the Rockies entertain the Brewers. The Dodgers owe the Padres for starting a rookie Cesar Ramos in his first major league start against them tomorrow.
If the Rockies are still in the race they will play some meaningful baseball against the Dodgers in Los Angeles starting Friday.
Wild Card Races
AL: A Red Sox win and a Rangers loss today will clinch the AL wild card spot for the Red Sox.
NL: Five teams are still vying for the NL wild card with the Braves leading the pack of contenders at two and-a-half games behind the Rockies but could reduce that lead to two games with a win today.
The Marlins could reduce the lead over them to four and-a-half games with a win over the Braves today.
With the Rockies, Giants and Cubs idle today those teams can only watch the Marlins and Braves battle to gain on the Rockies. The Rockies and Giants with magic numbers of two could be eliminated tomorrow as could the Cubs with a magic number of one.
Zack Greinke won his 16th game and is still in the running for the AL Cy Young Award. Greinke has allowed a total of two runs in his last six starts. He ended April with a 0.50 ERA and ended September with a 0.55 mark.
C.C. Sabathia has 19 wins but his ERA of 3.21 is over a run more than Greinke with a 2.06 ERA. Sabathia and Adam Wainwright also with 19 wins have one more start this season to win their 20th game.
Jeremy Guthrie leads all pitchers in losses with 16 but could be tied by the end of the day if Zach Duke loses his 16th game today….Justin Verlander leads all pitchers in strikeouts with 256 with Tim Lincecum trailing him by two strikeouts with 254.
Andy Pettitte (14-7) earned $5.5 million in basic salary in 2009 but has reached most of the incentives in his contract that would have paid him $4.5 million more. As of today he has missed his 200 innings and 210 innings incentives which could cost him $1.5 million if he doesn’t reach those numbers by the end of action next Sunday and he will almost certainly miss the 210 innings incentive.
Ironically Pettitte has won two more games than A.J. Burnett (12-9) despite having been paid around $6 million less than Burnett. He also has a 14-9 record in postseason play in 35 starts. In contrast Burnett has never pitched an inning in the postseason.
Daniel Hudson of the White Sox is a name to remember after he outpitched Edwin Jackson yesterday in his second major league start. His ERA stood at 4.76 before his first two major league starts but he has lowered it to 3.24 after those starts. He took the win despite issuing five walks which makes the win even more remarkable.
Edgar Gonzalez had given up two homers in 60 innings before yesterday but gave up homers in the third and fourth innings yesterday while losing to the Angels. Kendry Morales hit his 32nd homer and drove in his 100th run in the contest.
The Nationals jumped off to a 2-0 lead over the Braves in the first inning but the Braves won the game 6-3 in ten innings….The Phillies took an early 4-0 lead over the Brewers but had to hang on to win 6-5. There were no Brad Lidge sightings for the second game in a row with Ryan Madson picking up the save.
Madson has not done that much better having blown six saves in 24 chances while Lidge has blown 11 saves in 53 chances.
Jorge De La Rosa won his 16th game pitching out of trouble three times and still staying in the game long enough to defeat the Cardinals 4-3.
De La Rosa didn’t win his first game this season until June 5 after having an 0-6 record in his first ten starts. He has been 16-3 since then and has played a big part in the Rockies comeback after the firing of manager Clint Hurdle. He has lost only twice since June 16.