Sunday, September 15, 2013


[UPDATE 9/24: The Rays completed a four-game sweep of the Orioles, which leaves the O's five games out with six to play. They have been, as some of us are wont to say, completely forked. The Rangers won their opening game with the Astros, and need a sweep: their opponent for the final weekend (the Los Angeles Angels) has been playing quite well in September. The Royals continue to show a lot of grit: they edged the Mariners in Seattle, 6-5, in twelve innings...but they will likely need to win all six remaining games and hope for some type of faltering from the three teams in front of them.

The Rays finish on the road: they have three with the Yankees in the Bronx, beginning tonight with Matt Moore facing Hiroki Kuroda. The Indians host the White Sox, with white-hot Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound for them. Yu Darvish pitches for the Rangers in Arlington this evening against the Astros (106 losses and counting). And the Royals send the unsinkable Bruce Chen against the Mariners' rookie righthander James Paxton in Seattle.

[UPDATE 9/23: Life is getting dire for the Orioles and the Yankees...the O's lost their third consecutive game in Tampa, failing to solve rookie Enny Romero, who was wild (4 BB in 4.2 IP); the Yanks left Andy Pettitte in for one too many batters, and the Giants plated the winning run in the eighth, nailing Pettitte with a loss in his final start in the Bronx.

The Indians completed a sweep of the lowly Astros (105 losses); they have the day off before starting a three-game set with the White Sox. The Royals and Rangers engaged in a terrific pitching duel, with Justin Maxwell breaking things up in the tenth inning with a grand slam. They move to Seattle, where they will once again start rookie Yordano Ventura against the Mariners. They won't face Felix Hernandez in the series, though Hisashi Iwakuma will be on the mound in Wednesday's game.

[UPDATE 9/22: Rangers, Rays, Indians and Yankees were winners last night; a little distance has opened up between the top three teams fighting for the two wild cards slot (Rays, Rangers, Indians) and the others (O's, Royals, Yankees).

Today the Rays make an unusual move in starting 22-year old lefty Enny Romero, a highly-regarded prospect, against the O's. It will be back-and-forth-between-rotation-and-bullpen Alexi Ogando for the Rangers vs. James Shields for the Royals. And it will be Petit vs. Petttitte in the Bronx in what will be Andy's last home start; the sometimes-celebrated Yankee southpaw will be going for career win #256.]

[UPDATE 9/21: Yankees, Royals, Indians and Rays (in 18 innings) are last night's winners, with Cleveland moving into the second wild card slot. The O's need a win today, and they send Miguel Gonzalez against Alex Cobb and the Rays.

Ivan Nova will try to keep the Yankees' momentum going against the Giants; the Bombers got a boost from A-Rod's 24th grand slam, but will probably need to win seven of their last eight to have a shot at a wild card slot.

[UPDATE 9/20: Ten days left...Looking at the chart today, you have to figure that the Indians have got a great chance to be one of the Wild Card teams, with nothing left but games against sub-.500 teams. Last night their unlikely hero, Matt Carson, broke things up with the Astros with a walk-off pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 11th; Matt is now 7-for-9 on the season. Hiroki Kuroda failed for the Yankees, John Lackey stifled the Orioles on just two hits, and the Rangers knocked out Matt Moore to salvage a split against the Rays.

Now Texas goes to KC, where the Royals have a chance to make some serious noise in the race. The O's head to Tampa for four with the Rays, while the Yankees come home for a little late-season interleague play against the Giants: tonight's matchup features two struggling former Cy Young winners, Tim Lincecum and C.C. Sabathia.]

[UPDATE 9/19: The chess game continues...Bruce Chen keeps the Royals in the hunt as his solid run continues; the Rays, Yanks, and O's keep winning while the Rangers look for something to end their second consecutive September freefall. Today: a fine pitching matchup in fourth and final game of the Rangers-Rays series--Yu Darvish vs. Matt Moore. The Yanks send their best (Hiroki Kuroda) against the peaky Blue Jays.]

[UPDATE 9/18: The O's and Indians came from behind to win; the Rangers made quick work of the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson; and the Yankees were baffled in Toronto by R.A. Dickey. Lefty Wei-Lin Chen, whose last start in Fenway in late August was shaky, will square off against the Red Sox' Jake Peavy, while the Yanks will hold their breath (or is it their nose?) and send Phil Hughes (4-13) to the mound against the Blue Jays.]

[UPDATE 9/17: The Rays and the Royals won yesterday (winners shown in red). Everyone plays today. KC plays a hunch today and starts righty Yordano Ventura, who's making his major league debut. Scott Feldman, the O's best starter over the past four weeks, gets the start in Fenway tonight against Ryan (Dumpsy) Dempster. In Toronto, it's Andy Pettitte vs. R. A. Dickey as the Yanks try to get over the fact that they are no longer the Kings of Fenway.]

Now weren't we darned prophetic when we suggested that the Wild Card contenders in the AL were muddling their way into mediocrity?

No fewer than six teams--the O's, the Indians, the Royals, the Yankees, the Rays and the Rangers (from left to right across what used to be your radio dial)--are bobbing and weaving, spluttering and serpentining their way toward the finish line.

It's the baseball analogue to slouching towards Bethlehem. The bottom row on the chart (at right) captures the mediocrity marching on: the combined won-loss records for these six teams since game 130 is 54-59. Only the Royals have actually been playing well; the two teams who still lead in the Wild Card standings--the Rays and the Rangers--have been taking on more water than a pregnant whale.

(That doesn't even make sense, come to think of it--but you get the idea anyway...)

So the "cheat sheet" chart will get updated daily--and, like the obnoxious shills that we are (and only we could be plural when we're so singular), we'll be pinging you every chance we get to keep you in a kind of cryogenic frenzy.

Home games are in yellow; road games in green. This part of the schedule is pretty balanced (we were going to say "even-steven," but we don't know if we're supposed to capitalize that name, so we won't bother).

The second row from the bottom shows you how many games each team has left with opponents who are over .500. Looking at that info, we get the sense that the Indians and the Yankees have the easiest "down the stretch" schedule, with just three games against teams with winning records. Conversely, the Rays and the O's have the toughest time,with the O's drawing the booby prize (six games left with the Red Sox).

Vidal Nuno clearly has much better things to do than
shore up the leaky starting rotation in the Bronx...and his pal

Derek Jeter is free to stop by with a fresh supply of gift baskets.
The Yanks have two days off, more than anyone else, which might give them a chance to optimize their pitching rotation--except that their starters have been resisting optimization for most of September. It sure as hell makes you pine for Vidal Nuno--even if you can't quite remember just who that is...

The White Sox and Twins, who've been playing some seriously lousy baseball in the past couple of weeks (didn't stop the Rays from losing to the Twins on Sunday, however...) will continue to make some strategic appearances, but the Astros, the league's newly-minted doormat, will be featured in ten games across this desolate landscape, giving hope to the Indians, the Rangers and the Yankees as these teams grind out the remainder of the schedule.

The AL East doormat, those eternally disappointing Blue Jays, will be on hand for nine games (three each for the Yankees, O's and Rays).

A six-way tie, like John Lennon's presumptive working-class hero, would be something to see--and it might drive the unredeemable BS and his malevolent minions into an entirely new realm of catatonia if it were to happen. If such occurred, the best thing to do would be to just pick two names out of a hat.