Before this season, when discussing the two wild card setup, a point of discussion was "is any division strong enough to take both of the wild card spots, and send three teams to the playoffs?" The conclusion was that both Eastern divisions had a good shot at that, while the Central had an outside shot, and the West was pretty much left for dead. This isn't much of an issue in the National League, where the Pirates possess the first wild card slot, one game ahead of the Braves in second. Things get tied up after the Braves, with the Dodgers sitting at two out, and the Mets and Cardinals both 3.5 out. But in the American League, things are much more interesting. The Angels lead the first wild by one game over the Tigers, the leader in the second wild card. After that....chaos. The Orioles and A's (WHAT?!) are tied, a half game behind the Tigers, while Red Sox and Rays are each a game out, and the Indians are 1.5 out. The Blue Jays are also still hanging on, just 3.5 games out of first place. Now, discounting everything we know about the Orioles (they have the second worst run differential in the AL, and are freefalling since April), who in the hell ever could have predicted the A's doing so well? This is a patchwork team that traded away one of their best starting pitchers from last year, and their closer....and the team is four games above .500 with a better run differential than the Tigers and Rays. Could you imagine if the division that got two teams in the playoffs was the AL West, which we thought was going to be two great teams and two terrible teams? Ah, baseball.
Game of the Night: Red Sox 3, White Sox 1. This was an awful loss for the White Sox. Jose Quintana stymied Boston through eight shutout innings, and Matt Thornton came in for the ninth to preserver the slim one run margin. Carl Crawford singled, and Dustin Pedroia grounded into a fielders choice that could have been a double play, but wasn't. Adrian Gonzalez singled, and Thornton was pulled for closer Addison Reed. On the third pitch Reed threw to Cody Ross...well, he hit a Fenway Park 338 foot bloop homer over the Green Monster to give the Red Sox a stunning 3-1 win.
Pitching Lines of the Day: Edinson Volquez threw a one-hit shutout in the Padres' 1-0 win over the Astros, walking three while striking out five. David Price of the Rays shut out the Indians over seven innings in Tampa Bay's 6-0 win, allowing two hits, three walks, and striking out seven Cleveland hitters. In Quintana's eight shutout frames for the White Sox, he allowed five hits and struck out two while not walking a hitter. Max Scherzer allowed one run over seven in Detroit's 5-1 win over the Angels, giving up three hits and walking four, striking out nine Angels hitters in the process. Paul Maholm, a possible low-end trade chip for the Cubs, allowed one run over eight innings in Chicago's 4-2 win over Miami, giving up five hits, one walk, and four strikeouts.
Hitting Lines of the Day: David Wright went 2/5 with five RBI and a pair of homers in New York's 9-5 win over the Nationals. In Seattle's 6-1 over Kansas City, Jesus Montero went 3/4 with four RBI, a double, and his ninth homer of the year. In the Reds' 7-6 comeback win over the Diamondbacks, Brandon Phillips went 2/4 with two runs, five RBI, a double, and a homer.
Other Games: The Braves only had three hits, but it was enough in a 3-2 win over the Giants. The Orioles edged the Twins 4-3, and Wei-Yin Chen continues to be fantastic. The A's scored four runs early, and held off the Yankees to win 4-3.
Today's Games: Tommy Hanson will start against Stephen Strasburg as the Braves and Nationals start a critical four game set in DC. Jake Peavy and Justin Verlander will open a three game series between the White Sox and Tigers in Detroit for AL Cental supremacy. James Shields, another potential trade chip, will put on a showcase start for the Rays in Seattle. Aaron Harang and the Dodgers travel to New York to take on Johan Santana and the Mets. Kyle Lohse is starting for the Cardinals against the Cubs, who will be starting Ryan Dempster...unless he's traded today. Derek Holland and the Rangers travel to the Los Angeles and/or Anaheim area to take on Jered Weaver and the Angels for an AL West showdown.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.