It all started like this: Scott Lewis, the operator of Getting Blanked’s GIF machine, is a die hard Pittsburgh Pirates fan. We were sitting around in the studio, waiting for something technical that’s far beyond my understanding to work. More interested in passing the time than an actual answer, I gave him the following scenario and asked him a question.
After 162 games, the Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds are tied for first place in the National League Central. A game 163 is required to find out who the division winner is, but the loser will then have a good enough record to compete in the Wild Card play-in game. If all your starting pitchers are ready and able to go, who pitches the game against the Reds?
On the spot, he answered Erik Bedard, suggesting that Cincinnati’s left-handed heavy line up would be more apt to having trouble against a southpaw than against A.J. Burnett, and that way you could save the former member of the Marlins, Blue Jays and Yankees for the final do-or-die match if it was necessary. A quick peak at team batting numbers suggests that the Reds surprisingly hit left-handers better than right-handers (at least this year), but that doesn’t matter. The point is that the question inspired further discussion.
Back at our desks, after we were done in the studio, we continued talking about the new playoff format. I said something about the possibility of a team playing back-to-back single game eliminators, and Andrew Stoeten, the resident editor of the Toronto Blue Jays DJF blog, quickly noted that it could be even more than that. It’s very possible that in the last week of the season, multiple teams could be on the brink of elimination or playoff entrance.
Our talk forced us into taking a look at Major League Baseball’s schedule to what the most impressive final series of the year could be. So, without further ado, here’s what we’re most likely to be watching at the end of September/beginning of October:
Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates
The second place teams from the NL East and NL Central are currently the NL Wild Card holders with the Pirates a mere half game back of the Braves. With the St. Louis Cardinals being a better team than their record shows, it’s not difficult to see the winner of this series making the playoffs in one capacity or another, and the loser looking in from the outside.
Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
The Red Sox are currently nine games back of the Yankees in the American League East, but Boston is only 4.5 games back of the Wild Card. By the end of the season, New York may have the opportunity to banish their bitter rivals to yet another year without post season baseball. However, it’s also possible that a good showing in the final three games of the year could vault the Red Sox into the Wild Card game, and if they win that, their competition in the ALDS could very well be the same Yankees they play here.
Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays
It’s August 8th, and the Baltimore Orioles are still clenching desperately to a Wild Card spot. Meanwhile the Tampa Bay Rays are only 1.5 games back of their division rivals. If things remain as they are through the final seven weeks of the season, it could quite easily all come down to this series.
Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are currently 6 games back of the Reds, with the Pittsburgh Pirates in between them, but St. Louis is only 2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, so even if the competitors of this series don’t directly impact each other in the standings, it will most certainly affect the Pirates and Braves series going on at the same time.
Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants
These two teams have been fighting over first place in the NL West since the All-Star break, and given each team’s shoring up at the trade deadline, it seems as though trenches have been built for a battle to last the remainder of the season. I’m not certain the State of California would be able to take it if this back-and-forth went all the way to the final game of the year.
And The Rest
WAR, what is it good for? Quite a number of things, actually. [The Hardball Times]
The Dunedin Jays play some 8-bit ball. [DJF]
Bud Selig’s legacy, and the poor, unfortunate Oakland Athletics. [Baseball Nation]
The 2013 All-Star Game logo is revealed, and now it can’t be unrevealed, but fortunately it can be reviled. [MLB.com]
The swing tendencies of batters in each and every count. [Baseball Prospectus]
We all know who Todd Frazier is, right? [Red Reporter]
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout turned 21 yesterday, and there is no one like him at all. [Value Over Replacement Grit]
Matt Moore, David Price and the mound. [The Process Report]
Don’t get disheartened Philadelphia Phillies fans, the last two months of the season are still important to the team. [Crashburn Alley]
Here’s a novel idea: Don’t use laser pens. Ever. For anything. They’re totally unnecessary. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
After Caesar Izturis was scooped up off waivers, the Milwaukee Brewers called up Jean Segura, one of the players they acquired in the Zack Greinke trade. [Disciples Of Uecker]
Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista will be going for a second MRI on his injured wrist. [Eye On Baseball]
Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will test his achilles out on Thursday. [Over The Monster]
Baltimore Orioles slugger Jim Jam Thome will be out at least another month. [Baltimore Sun]