The Week That Was in Baseball: August 27-September 2, 2012
Who's Headed for October? • Should MLB Waive Post-July 31 Waivers?
The Bucs Will Finish Above .500Right? • ESPN Re-Ups: More Yankees-Red Sox On Tap
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|The TGG Midseason Report Card
Our annual look at the best, worst and most unexpected through the first 81 games of the 2012 major league season.
Who's Surving September?
AL East: The New York Yankees have held the top spot for the bulk of the season, but they’re vulnerable with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez playing well below 100% (if they’re playing at all). On top of that, here come the Baltimore Oriolesgalvanized, overachieving and just two games back despite being outscored on the season to date. If the Yankees can survive the next week and a half with home-and-home series with Tampa Bay and a crucial four-game showdown in Baltimore that’s sure to provide Camden Yards’ biggest vibe since 1996, then they’re set to be home free as they wrap up against wimpy and/or lost foes in Minnesota, Toronto and Boston. TGG Predicts: New York.
AL Central: After a miserable week for the White Sox capped by a three-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigerswho are tied with Chicagothe Sox now need to make the next ten games count; they’re all at home, starting with divisional lightweights Minnesota and Kansas City followed by a huge four-game rematch against the Tigers. If the Sox can’t take advantage of the homestand, they’re going to be in troublebecause the Tigers play their final 13 games split against the Twins and Royals, and no one else. TGG Predicts: Detroit.
AL West: The Texas Rangers have been coasting all season, but suddenly they’re feeling heat from behind with the surprising Oakland A’s having come to unexpected pennant-race life. The two teams play seven of their final ten games against each other, but the bigger tell-tale sign of who ultimately takes this division will come from what remains for each team in its out-of-division scheduleand that clearly favors the Rangers, who get the Rays but also the Royals and Indians, while the A’s have a challenging nine-game stretch in mid-month with the Orioles and (on the road) the Tigers and Yankees. TGG Predicts: Texas.
AL Wild Cards: By hook or by crook, the White Sox will find their way to the postseasonand since we’ve already tagged the Tigers to win the AL Central, we’ll grant the Pale Hose with one of the two wild card spots. So who gets the other nod to face the White Sox in the first-ever “play-in” wild card game? We find it tough to bet against Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays, but their remaining schedule is brutal. It’s the same for the A’s as we noted above, so our common sense instincts float over to the Orioles, who seem to have a twinge of destiny in their step at this point. So there you are: A rematch of the 1983 ALCS. TGG Predicts: Chicago and Baltimore.
NL East: What remains on Atlanta’s schedule is favorable to that of front-running Washington, but the Nationals’ 6.5-game lead over the Braves is a heavier factor to consider at this stage. For the Braves to have any hope up surpassing the Nationals, they’re going to have to sweep them when they come to town on September 14-16or, they’ll have to hope that Washington falls flat on its face the way the Braves did last year. TGG Predicts: Washington.
NL Central: This is the one division that’s beyond doubtunless the Cincinnati Reds, nearly ten games up, pull a 1964 Philadelphia. But remember: Whenever a team collapses late in the year, it always seems to be the St. Louis Cardinals (currently in second place) who take advantage. TGG Predicts: Cincinnati.
NL West: The San Francisco Giants have the 4.5-game lead, a five-game advantage in the loss column and the easier September schedule over the second-place, no-expense-spared Los Angeles Dodgers. Adding more fuel to the Giants’ chances, manager Bruce Bochy is a far more accomplished and deft manager of the game than his L.A. counterpart, the relatively inexperienced Don Mattinglyand that will matter down the stretch. For the Dodgers to have any hope of upending the Giants, they’ll have to make a statement with a three-game series this weekend at San Francisco. TGG Predicts: San Francisco.
NL Wild Cards: With a three-game edge over the nearest wild card competitor and a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way, the Braves should have no reason not to grab one of the two wild cards. (But no choking, please!) Unless they can buy out the other 29 teams, the Dodgers will find it tough to get the second wild card with a difficult schedule, and the Pirates have been floundering and lack experience to meet the challenge (but they should at least finish above .500 for once in their lives). That leaves us with the Cardinals, who still have the ecstasy of coming from behind and winning it all fresh in their psyche and are in better position anyway to make it to October. TGG Predicts: Atlanta and St. Louis.
Waiving Off the Trading Deadline
Teams can still make deals after July 31, but only when placing a player on waivers. There are usually two types of players who get waived at this point: One who’s simply not performing up to par, or one who’s become heavy financial deadweight. If another team makes a claim, then the team making the waiver has the option to negotiate with that team or pull the player back.The trading deadline was established in the 1920s after small-market clubs complained that two rich New York teams, the Yankees and Giants, had an unfair economic advantage seeking last-minute talent to fuel their stretch runs. But the Dodger-Red Sox dealand numerous other star players placed on waivers (but unclaimed and/or untraded) such as Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Roy Oswalthave made some pause and wonder if a hard deadline, where even waiver claims are disallowed, should be considered. Don’t expect such a movebut do expect chatter over it.
Sweatin' it Out in Pittsburgh
Hammerin the Message Home
No Need to Touch That Dial
M's Heart NY
Wounded of the Week
In the non-essential part of baseball where teams have raised the white flag, Boston slugger David Ortiz re-aggravated his sprained Achilles Heel and will most likely sit out the rest of the yearand may be done as a member of the Red Sox with free agency looming at age 37.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
A Day-by-Day Review of the Week
On the second pitch he throws for the Los Angeles Dodgers, former Boston pitcher Josh Beckett serves up a second-deck home run to Colorado’s Tyler Colvin at Denver’s Coors Field. Beckett will settle in and allow three runs through 5.2 innings in his Dodger debut, but the Rockies hammer the bullpen while the Dodgers cannot rebut in a 10-0 Colorado thrashing.
The struggling Toronto Blue Jays defeat the Yankees at New York in 11 innings, 8-7, thanks in large part to a three-run, ninth-inning homer by Colby Rasmus that brings the Jays back from behind. Rasmus had entered the game with two hits and 18 strikeouts over his last 39 at-bats; the Jays had lost the last 21 games in which he had appeared.
In his major league debut, 22-year-old Casey Kellyreceived by the San Diego Padres in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Bostonpitches six shutout innings and collects a single in two at-bats to help the Padres defeat Atlanta at Petco Park, 3-0. Kelly needs just two more appearances to match the major league service of his father, Pat Kelly, who played three games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1980.
Tuesday, August 28
In his first game back since being suspended for angrily confronting manager Bobby Valentine, Boston reliever Alfredo Aceves is given a 5-4 lead to protect at Anaheim in the ninthand blows it, allowing two runs on a hit, walk and hit batsman as the Angels defeat the Red Sox, 6-5. It’s the eighth blown save and ninth loss of the year for Aceves.
In a year gone suddenly south for the Blue Jays, Ricky Romeroconsidered the team’s acesets a single-season franchise record by losing his 11th straight decision in a 2-1 loss at New York. Romero hasn’t won since June 22 and is 0-11 in his previous 12 starts with a 7.16 ERA; over that same period, he’s walked more batters (43) than struck out (41).
Wednesday, August 29
The Cincinnati Reds beat the Diamondbacks at Arizona to become the majors’ first team to reach 80 wins on the year. It’s the fastest the Reds have reached 80 since their titanic 1976 championship season; their eight-game lead over second-place St. Louis in the NL Central is the biggest in baseball. Meanwhile, it’s the sixth straight loss for the defending NL West champion Diamondbacks (64-67), who are falling fast out of the postseason picture.
While the team at the top of the NL Central keeps moving upward, the team at the other end of the division keeps sinking to new lows. The Houston Astros lose 6-4 to the visiting San Francisco Giants before 13,207, the smallest announced crowd in Minute Maid Park history; the loss is their 90th of the year and places them 50 games below the .500 mark. (They will draw 400 fewer spectators a day later.)
Thursday, August 30
Friday, August 31
Saturday, September 1
Sunday, September 2
Behind a dominant performance from ace Justin Verlanderwho strikes out 11 and allows just a run on four hits in eight inningsthe Detroit Tigers finish off a three-game sweep of Chicago, 4-2, to tie the White Sox for first place in the AL Central. The losing pitcher is Chris Sale, the Cy Young Award candidate who gives up the big blow of the day when Delmon Young blasts a three-run homer in the sixth to give Detroit the lead.Trailing Philadelphia 7-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Atlanta Braves erupt for five runsthree off the bat of Chipper Jones on a two-out home runto beat the Phillies, 8-7 and stay tied at the top of the NL wild card race. It’s the second walk-off homer for Jones against the Phillies this season.
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