Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young

Rangers, Rockies on pace for historic finishes


With two teams already there and the rest set to hit the halfway point of the season within the next few days, I wanted to look at what kind of pace each team was on. Below are the number of wins each team would finish with given its current pace, plus how that would stack up against the team’s history. As things stand now, there’s one team on pace for its most wins ever and another on pace for its fewest.

AL East
Yankees – 100 – most since 2009
Orioles – 87 – most since 1997
Red Sox – 86  – fewest since 2001
Rays – 84 – fewest since 2009
Blue Jays – 82 – most since 2010

AL Central
White Sox – 86 – most since 2010
Indians – 83 – most since 2007
Tigers – 80 – fewest since 2008
Royals – 74 – most since 2008
Twins – 69 – most since 2010

AL West
Rangers – 101 – most ever
Angels – 90 – most since 2009
Athletics – 77 – most since 2010
Mariners – 68 – most since 2009

NL East
Nationals – 95 – most since 1979*
Mets – 87 – most since 2008
Braves – 85 – fewest since 2008
Marlins – 79 – most since 2010
Phillies – 72 – fewest since 2000

NL Central
Reds – 89 – most since 2010
Pirates – 87 – most since 1992
Cardinals – 84 – fewest since 2007
Brewers – 75 – fewest since 2006
Astros – 66 – most since 2010
Cubs – 60 – fewest since 1981**

NL West
Giants – 91 – most since 2010
Dodgers – 89 – most since 2009
Diamondbacks – 81 – fewest since 2010
Rockies – 62 – fewest ever
Padres – 61 fewest since 1993

*The Expos were 74-40 and on pace to win 105 games when the strike ended the 1994 season.

**The 1981 Cubs went 38-65 in that strike-shortened season, which also works out to 60-win pace. Their last full season under 60 wins was 1966, when they went 59-103.

If the Rangers keep at it, they’ll set a franchise high for victories for the second straight year, topping last year’s total of 96. Before that, their high was 95 win sin 1999.

The Rockies are on pace for their fewest wins, excluding the 1994 strike season (they were on pace for 73 wins that year). Their low total is 67 wins, from both their inaugural season in 1993 and from 2005.

The Yankees and Rangers are both on pace for 100 wins. Only one team, the Phillies, got there last year. No team did in 2010. If the Yankees can do it, it’d be their sixth 100-win season since 1998.

And then there’s the Pirates, on pace for their first .500 season since Barry Bonds left. Their high total since was 79 wins in 1997.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.