The Atlantic League is engaging in an interesting experiment to pick up the pace of games

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Joe Delessio of Sports on Earth has a neat article up. It’s about how the independent Atlantic League has, since the first of August, tweaked some rules in an effort to pick up the pace of games. They’ve done so in an effort to study it, really, not just as a gimmick. Among the tweaks: enforcing the rules about batters stepping out of the box and pitchers throwing the ball in a timely manner; just “calling” an intentional walk instead of throwing four pitches, limiting mound visits (and the time of said visits) and reducing pitchers’ warmup pitches.

None of these are radical changes — there’s no big pitch clock on the wall and no rules fundamental to how the game is played have been changed — but the results are, so far anyway, promising. About nine minutes have been shaved off the average game and far fewer games have exceeded three hours than typically did before the tweaks. But more than game length, they’ve picked up game pace. There’s just more action over less time.

An interesting component to this: Tal Smith, the longtime Astros executive who now works with the Sugar Land Skeeters, helped move this along. Tal, no doubt, still has the ear of many people around Major League Baseball. If these modest things are proven to work and are proven not to disrupt the game too much, they could gain purchase in Major League Baseball.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.