Does being in first place on Memorial Day matter?


Memorial Day poppy.jpgQuick answer: If the Braves beat the Phillies today and take first place then, yes, a lead on Memorial Day is the most important thing ever. At least to Bravos Backers like myself.

Answer based on data rather than emotion: It matters about 65.625% of the time.  That’s the number Buster Olney’s research team came up with when asked how often a team makes the playoffs after being in first place on Memorial Day.  That’s based on a sample of 96 first place teams since the advent of the Wild Card, 58 of whom won the division, five of whom won the wild card and 33 of whom stayed home.

How does this year’s crop of firsties shape up?  I like the Rays, Twins, and Phillies to make the playoffs one way or the other. I’m way more skeptical about the Athletics, Reds and Padres.  I think first place in the AL West is going to be a revolving door. I’d like to combine the Reds’ offense and the Padres pitching into a super squad, but I’m skeptical that each team is complete enough to grind it out against their more talented division rivals.

Back to emotion over data:  I’m pretty psyched that no one is running away with their division this year. It’s going to make a for a wonderful summer.

And let’s be clear about something:  The only reason you have the day off today to sit around and think about which front runner will make the playoffs is because soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have died in service to our country. Far be it from me to tell you not to enjoy your baseball and your barbecue today, but before you do, give your thoughts and give your thanks to our nation’s veterans.

Happy Memorial Day everyone.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.