Not only were the Yankees eliminated on Wednesday, but with the Rays and Indians both prevailing, the Orioles and Royals were likewise ruled out of the wild card chase, leaving only the Rangers in position to possibly overtake the top two in the hunt.
The up-to-the-minute standings:
All three teams have a full slate remaining. The Rays finish up their series with the Yankees on Thursday, while the Indians and Rangers begin four-game series. The Indians will travel to Minnesota, and the Rangers will host the Angels. The Rays finish up with three games in Toronto.
The schedule, which has been very kind to Cleveland of late, doesn’t seem to particularly favor any of the teams this weekend. The Twins are the weakest of the opponents, but it helps that they’ll be at home. The Indians are just 37-40 on the road this year, compared to 51-30 at home. They’re 9-6 in 15 games against the Twins.
The Rangers are an impressive 11-4 against the Angels. They’re 42-35 at home.
The Rays are 10-6 against the Blue Jays and 38-39 on the road.
All things considered, one probably has to prefer the chances of the teams currently in the drivers seats. The Rangers aren’t playing well enough to make a four-game sweep seem at all likely, and if they merely go 3-1 against the Angels, they’ll be lucky to gain the ground needed to force a one-game playoff.
For the first time in major league history, both pitchers in a playoff game have struck out at least 11 batters, per MLB.com’s Paul Casella. Mets starter Jacob deGrom has pitched just a hair better than Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw overall. deGrom has blanked the Dodgers on five hits and a walk. Kershaw made one mistake, resulting in a solo home run to Daniel Murphy in the fourth inning. He’s allowed four hits and two walks total.
The last time opposing starters each struck out 10 in a post-season game was back in 1944 in Game 5 of the World Series when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.