Our cartoon--stolen with rueful impunity from this week's New Yorker--sums up the situation quite nicely. There's a whole lotta flatlinin' goin' on, to put it in the twangiest parlance we can muster. (After all, the excitement is killing us!)
But the batting data summary for the five teams slouching toward the post-season (if not Bethlehem...and which teams would W.B. Yeats be rooting for, if his swoony, spectral ectoplasm could be summoned from the mists of Lethe? Perhaps we are better off not knowing...) indicates that all of these guys are stuck in a vat of offensive molasses that seems to have extended from coast to coast.
In short, none of these teams (Royals, A's, M's, Yanks, Indians) is hitting, and during the month of September they collectively under .500. Did we say that the excitement is killing us? (Is this thing on??)
The week ahead will certainly bring things to clarity, but probably more in the whimper vs. bang category. The Yanks and the Indians have to pretty much run the table this week to have a chance; frankly, that looks more doable for the Tribe, particularly since they are in position to add a delayed win to their total today, playing the "bottom of the ninth" at home against the Royals in a game suspended due to weather back in August. But they're going to have to sweep KC to get into it, and the vagaries of the schedule have deemed that they'll have to do that without ace Corey Kluber (17-9) in the mix.
|Will KC put James Shields on the|
mound twice this week??
The Royals, those counterintuitive darlings of the "midwestern angst" branch of the neo-post-neosabes, are in need of a turnaround. They were hurt when Danny Duffy missed two starts and Jason Vargas returned to earth; what may have hurt most, though, was when Salvador Perez neglected to tag up on a lineout and wound up running into a game-changing double play against the Tigers. In a pinch, they could opt to put their ace James Shields on the mound twice on three days' rest; that move will likely be dictated by how things go in Cleveland over the next two days.
Well, now, look at this: excitement despite everything. But it's really just the hope that, somehow, something will prove to be exciting. Right now, we have no such proof--we have only the pudding. Stay tuned!
[UPDATE: The Royals have gotten their turnaround, in the form of their two young starters--Duffy and Yordano Ventura, who each posted scoreless outings after Cleveland held on to win the "suspended animation" game, 4-3. The Indians are now 4 1/2 back with five to play instead of just a half-game behind--which means they are through, despite a closing schedule just as favorable as the one they had last season and parlayed into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Mariners' starting pitching betrayed them--first James Paxton was roughed up, and then--incredibly--Felix Hernandez, too as the Blue Jays put on their hitting shoes and reminded us of how good they can look when they do that. They are three games back, and need to run the table and get some help from the White Sox, who've made things easier for KC by ensuring that Chris Sale will miss their season-ending series with the Royals.
So whimper, si...bang, no--but the whimpering seems to have gotten over and done with. "Midwestern angst" returns to the post-season for the first time in a generation: praise the Lord and pass Joe P. a tablet that types its type in white-on-white...]