I love how the last week of the season is shaping up, what with the Orioles and Yankees fighting it out for the AL East, each trying to avoid the one-game wild card thing. But reader Innocent Bystander makes a good point in the comments this morning:
O’s/Yanks battle seems exciting on the face of it, but if we rewind to when just 2 Division winners went to the postseason and there were no Wild Cards the drama would be even more intense. Imagine if one of these teams was going home. For that matter, go back farther to league winner goes directly to the World Series and you would have a great 3 team race with the Rangers. And in the NL the Reds/Nats would be a lot of fun too. More playoff teams doesn’t necessarily make the races better.
Like I said: it’s still exciting now. But don’t let anyone — be it a broadcaster or a Commissioner of Baseball — make you believe that the excitement we’re going to have these last three games and then again on Friday’s do-or-die wild card games is unprecedented or impossible without the current playoff format.
The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.
In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.
The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.