State of the Races

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This is pretty much all you need to know:

Boston:  89-70
Tampa Bay: 88-71

Atlanta: 89-70
St. Louis: 88-71

Such wonderful symmetry, both in record and in dynamic. A faltering would-be giant above the guys everyone wrote off in August. A three-game sprint to Wednesday evening or — if things break just right — one-game playoffs on Thursday. It’s not quite the 1993 NL West or the 1987 AL East, but ’tis enough. ‘Twill serve.

For Boston it’s three games in Camden Yards with Josh Beckett, Erik Bedard and Jon Lester facing Tommy Hunter, Zach Britton and AlfredoSimon.  For Tampa Bay it’s three at home against the Yankees with James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and David Price facing Hector Noesi, Bartolo Colon and, well, Joe Girardi will cross that bridge when he comes to it. Given Boston’s recent struggles with Baltimore and the Yankees not exactly trotting out the finest portion of their rotation, let’s call it a push. A push, however, favors the Red Sox as that one game is pretty big.

Atlanta has the unenviable task of hosting Philly, with Randall Delgado, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson taking on Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  Meanwhile the Cardinals take on the Astros with Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Chris Carpenter facing Wandy Rodriguez, Henry Sosa and Brett Myers.  Here the schedule and the matchups clearly favor the Cardinals.

Photo finish anyone?

Umpire ejects Adrian Beltre for moving on-deck circle

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As far as ejections go, this is one of the stranger ones you’ll hear about. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was ejected in the bottom of the eighth inning of a game his team trailed at the time 18-6. Beltre was a few feet away from the circle towards home plate and was asked by Marlins pitcher Drew Steckenrider to get into the circle. So rather than step a few feet back to his right, Beltre picked up the circle and dragged it to where he was. And that got him ejected by second base umpire Gerry Davis. Manager Jeff Banister was also ejected after having a word with Davis.

Here’s a video from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Beltre, by the way, went 3-for-3 with a walk, a pair of doubles, and a solo home run. He’s now four hits away from 3,000 for his career.

Video: Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford hits an inside-the-park grand slam

Elsa/Getty Images
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Phillies shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford’s stock has fallen sharply this season. He had an abysmal first three months, batting .203/.321/.276 in 291 plate appearances. Baseball America rated him the 12th overall prospect in baseball going into the season and rated him No. 92 in their midseason top 100. It was bad.

Since the calendar turned to July, however, Crawford has been more like his normal self. In 92 at-bats this month entering Wednesday night’s action, he was hitting .300/.391/.650 with six home runs, 13 RBI, 18 runs scored, and a terrific 15/12 K/BB ratio.

Crawford padded his stats more on Wednesday night as he circled the bases for an inside-the-park grand slam. Via the IronPigs Twitter:

Crawford was actually dead-to-rights at home, but he fooled the catcher with a great late slide.

Crawford finished 1-for-3 with a walk along with the slam on the night as the IronPigs beat the Gwinnett Braves 8-2.