Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has a good piece up today talking about the second wild card has changed the competitive landscape (i.e. put far more teams in contention longer) and thus creates some real benefits to teams’ bottom lines. If you have a chance, people watch and buy tickets and beer and foam fingers and stuff.
Another consequence: a lot of inactivity at the trade deadline. Or at lease leading up to it. Since everyone thinks they’ve got a chance — or, at the very least, want their fans to think they have a chance — there are way fewer sellers at the deadline and way more buyers. That, in turn, makes the few players who are available go way up in price and makes trades even harder to come together. We still may see a lot of deals in late July, but they’ll be minor ones, as fewer teams decide that they need to mount a fire sale.
Given the more-teams-are-in-it-longer dynamic of the two-wild-card era, it would behoove Major League Baseball to look into extending the non-waiver trade deadline a couple of weeks into August instead of having it stop in late July. We need more things to shake out if we want more players to shake loose.
So much for a last-minute, nail-biting finish to this division race. The Braves cemented their division title with a dominant 5-3 finish over the Phillies on Saturday, laying claim to the NL East title for the first time since 2013.
The Braves asserted themselves right off the bat after amassing a four-run lead from Johan Camargo and Freddie Freeman, both of whom cleared the bases with two-run singles in the first two innings. Ronald Acuna Jr., meanwhile, found another way to make his presence known after swiping his 15th stolen base of the year and joining Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, and Mike Trout as one of the youngest players to collect at least 25 home runs and 15 stolen bags in major league history.
Not to be outdone, Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz delivered one of the strongest starts of his season to date. The righty set down six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies, and, with just 62 pitches under his belt, looked ready to go the distance before he lost his bid on Odubel Herrera‘s leadoff single in the seventh.
Unfortunately for the Braves, the Phillies not only upended Foltynewicz’s no-hit attempt, but the shutout as well. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez and Rhys Hoskins wrestled two RBI singles from Atlanta’s bullpen and brought Philadelphia within one run of tying the game. Hoskins was the last Phillies batter to reach base, however, as Jonny Venters and Arodys Vizcaino tossed a combined 1 2/3 scoreless innings (backed by a final RBI hit from Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the eighth) to cap the Braves’ win — and the NL East title.
With the loss, the Phillies sit seven games back of a wild card spot in the National League. They’ll need to outpace the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals in order to make 2018 their first postseason-qualifying year since 2011.