Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics

Two days left: here’s where it stands

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For those of you too busy watching football or something silly like that last night, here’s where we stand with two days left in the regular season.

Nine of the ten playoff teams are known: the Yankees, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers and Athletics will represent the American League. The Nationals, Braves, Reds and Giants will represent the National League.  The final slot in the NL will come down to the Cardinals and the Dodgers, but more on that in a second. Here’s how it all breaks down:

American League

  • The Yankees won and the Orioles lost last night, giving New York a one game advantage in the AL East race with two to play. The loser will be the wild card winner;
  • The Athletics beat the Rangers last night, clinching a playoff spot and pulling to within one game of the AL West lead. They play two more head-to-head, with the loser settling for the other wild card slot. The A’s win eliminated both the Angles and the Rays from playoff contention;
  • The Tigers win over the Royals gave the AL Central title to Detroit. The White Sox were eliminated from postseason consideration.

National League

  • The Nationals lost to Philadelphia, but the Braves loss to Pittsburgh gave Washington the NL East crown. Atlanta will host the wild card game on Friday.
  • St. Louis and Los Angeles each won.  The Cardinals win clinches at least a tie for the second NL wild card. If they win one of their last two games — or if the Dodgers lose either of their last two — St. Louis will be the wild card representative.  If the Cards lose two and the Dodgers win two, it’s a tie, and the teams will play a one-game playoff on Thursday to determine who plays the Braves in the wild card game on Friday.
  • The Reds and Giants have already clinched their respective divisions.

Triple Crown and MVP race

Miguel Cabrera homered and went 4 for 5 in last night’s game, giving him sole possession of the home run lead to match his lead in the batting and RBI race.  He currently leads Mike Trout — who also had a huge game last night — .329-.325 in the batting title race, has one more home run than Josh Hamilton and ten more RBI than Hamilton.

As far as the MVP implications, the Angels being eliminated from the playoffs may sway a few more voters to go with Cabrera for the MVP than otherwise would. If I had to bet money on it right now, I say that Cabrera will win the MVP whether he wins the triple crown or not.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.16.51 AM
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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.