In a 162-game marathon it’s easy to lose sight of which teams have played well following a rough first couple months or which teams have faded since a fast start, so with about three weeks remaining in the season let’s take a look at the best records since the All-Star break.
First up, the National League:
Reds 39 19
Nationals 39 20
Phillies 34 21
Braves 35 23
Padres 34 22
Giants 34 22
Cincinnati, Washington, Atlanta, and San Francisco are likely all headed for the playoffs with the four best overall records in the league, but Philadelphia and San Diego have turned things around in a huge way after stumbling out of the gates. It’s too little too late for the Padres, but the Phillies have somehow climbed back to .500 and into legitimate Wild Card contention after going 37-50 in the first half.
And now the American League:
Athletics 38 17
Orioles 34 22
Mariners 32 23
Rangers 32 23
Rays 32 23
What’s going on in Oakland right now is pretty crazy and last night was no exception. Seattle is obviously the biggest surprise in the AL, going 32-23 in the second half after going 36-51 in the first half. Like with the Padres it’s too little too late for the Mariners, but they’ve at least provided some reason for optimism following some pretty ugly seasons.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.