As we enter the final week of the 2009 season, only three teams have secured play-off places so far, but expect the picture to become a lot more clear over the coming days. Meanwhile, there’s still a few races going on, and for some teams their post-season hopes may really go down to the wire.
In the AL East, New York has already secured a place in the play-offs. The Yankees were the first team to earn a post-season berth and also achieved a new home-run record at Yankee Stadium for the season on Friday evening. Currently playing three games against Boston, with a win today, New York will clinch the division title. CC Sabathia pitched majestically on Saturday to become the first pitcher to snag 19 wins this year. Boston are still looking good for the AL wild card spot, now six games up over Texas, so barring any kind of disaster with just eight games to play, the Red Sox should be in the post-season.
The Phillies are still holding a five game lead in the NL East, but haven’t secured their play-off place just yet, mainly because of the surging Atlanta Braves behind them. Atlanta have won five straight and are just 2.5 games behind the Rockies in the NL wild card right now, so their progress over the coming week will be one of the more interesting races to follow. The Braves also learned that long-time manager Bobby Cox will remain in charge for 2010, but probably retire after that. The Marlins remain four games behind in the wild card, so also still have a chance to make it to the post-season this year.
The race in the AL Central is probably garnering the most attention right now. Detroit’s grip on the division seemed pretty strong up to a week or two ago, but now they are just two games ahead of the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers swept Cleveland midweek, but the Twins’ late-season surge continues, as Minnesota have lost just once in 12 games. Still, it’s clearly Detroit who are under the most pressure, and they definitely hold the upper hand. With four games between the two teams Monday to Thursday, this division could be wrapped up within a few days, or go right down to the wire. Further down from the contenders, the Indians snapped an 11-game losing streak with a win over the Orioles, and Zach Greinke secured his 15th win of the year over the Red Sox (and will be going for number 16 today against the Twins), as the Royals continue to play well despite being eliminated.
In the NL Central, St. Louis have already been crowned the divisional champions with an 8.5 game advantage over the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have been playing well lately, and mathematically still have a shot at obtaining a wild card place, but only if other results go their way. Despite suspending Milton Bradley for the rest of the season (expect him to be traded soon), Carlos Zambrano pitched a complete game two-hitter against San Francisco the other day, certainly no mean achievement with Tim Lincecum on the mound for the Giants. The Brewers were eliminated this week, but perhaps Prince Fielder will play in all 162 games: the only player in the Majors to achieve that feat this year. Earlier this week, the Houston Astros fired their manager Cecil Cooper with just 13 more games to play, with third-base coach Dave Clark named interim manager for the rest of the season.
In the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are close, but haven’t yet clinched their play-off berth. They’re still five games up over Texas but are on a four-game losing streak. The Rangers are still keeping their hopes alive and playing a little better after stumbling last week, but they’re a long way back in the wild card standings, and will still need to rely on the Halos really screwing things up to win the division. In Seattle, Felix Hernandez secured his 17th win of the year to keep his Cy Young hopes alive, and the normally quiet and assured Ichiro Suzuki found himself ejected for the very first time in his career. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s are continuing to stack up the victories in September, and are currently making life a lot harder for the Angels this weekend.
The Los Angeles Dodgers finally clinched a play-off place last night with a victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it probably won’t be too long before they secure the NL West divisional title. The Rockies are still out front in the NL wild card, though they’re only 2.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves. Things are not looking good for the San Francisco Giants nowadays. Eliminated from the division race, the Giants are five games back in the NL wild card standings, falling behind the Marlins, and it would take a miracle for them to clinch a play-off spot. With three consecutive losses to the Chicago Cubs this weekend, and Edgar Renteira out for the rest of the season due to elbow surgery, the Giants will be disappointed that they didn’t make it, despite boasting the league’s best pitching staff.
Well, that wraps up another eventful week in the MLB. Matt will continue to guide you through the post-season and 2009 World Series, so see you in April next year.