Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Grant Balfour celebrates after the Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers during their MLB baseball game in Oakland

What’s left to play for in Game 162?


We’ve played 161 games and still not everything is decided. What’s left?

American League

The Yankees hold a one-game lead over the Orioles. A New York win or an Orioles loss gives the division to the Yankees.  If the Bombers lose and the O’s win, we have a one-game playoff tomorrow, in Baltimore, to see who has to play in the wild card game.  If the Yankees win today, they also clinch home field advantage in the AL playoffs.

The Rangers and A’s are all tied up. No tiebreaker scenarios here. Winner takes all, starting just after noon Pacific time today, in Oakland.

National League

The Dodgers loss to the Giants last night sealed the wild card for the St. Louis Cardinals. Everything is now decided in the National League. St. Louis heads to Atlanta on Friday for the wild card game. The winner of that one plays the Nationals in the NLDS. If the Reds win tonight and the Nationals lose, the Reds will have the best record in the NL, forcing the Nats to travel to San Francisco for the NLDS while the Reds play the wild card playoff winner.

Triple Crown/MVP

Miguel Cabrera went 2 for 3 last night, pushing his average up to .331. He leads Mike Trout by .007 points now.  Even if Cabrera takes an 0 for 4 today and Trout goes 4 for 4, they tie at .3285.  You figure that, even if he plays, Cabrera would be yanked if he went, like, 0 for 2. And for what it’s worth, if Cabrera totally sits out today, Trout has to go 6 for 6, so yeah. In any event, the Angels game starts 90 minutes before the Tigers game does today. Jim Leyland and everyone else will know if Trout goes on a tear.

The real threat is Josh Hamilton, playing a big game in Oakland today. But let’s define “real.”  Hamilton would have to hit two homers and Cabrera none for Cabrera to lose out on the home run portion of the Triple Crown.  He has the RBI title in the bag.

Skip out on the afternoon at work and watch the A’s-Rangers game, guys.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.