Rays 4, Angels 2: Should Angels' fans worry that their team has lost five of six? Maybe. Maybe there's something to that whole notion of "edge" and being tested by a fight for a playoff spot. The Angels are up by around 15 games, and given how poorly the A's are playing and how badly the Rangers' loss of Ian Kinsler is going to hurt them, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that LAA will cruise to the division title by at least that much. I'm sure someone has done this scientifically, but just trolling around, I notice that the last time a team won the division by as many as 15 games -- well, it was two teams given the tie for first between New York and Boston in 2005 -- both of them lost in the division series. Before that you have the 2003 Giants, and they lost in the division series as well. Then you have the 2002 Braves and the 1999 Indians who both, you guessed it, lost in the division series. To find a team that won its division by as many as 15 games who didn't lose in the division series, you have to go to 1998 when the Braves lost in the NLCS, but the Yankees -- God bless em' -- won the World Series. Does it mean anything? Maybe yes, maybe no, but you can bet Angels fans would be happier to see a little more from their team -- a bit of an edge, maybe -- as they play potential playoff opponents.
Blue Jays 2, Yankees 1: The return of Matsui pays no immediate dividends, as A.J. Burnett gives up one run and strikes out 13 Yankees. Not a bad game for Rasner, but when your offense goes as quietly as New York's did last night, that and $59.95 will only get the Yankees a digital cable package with which they can watch better teams play in the playoffs this October.
Phillies 5, Nationals 4: How could the Nats be this bad? Look how awesome they seemed before the season started!
Mets 7, Braves 3: I've more or less gotten cool with the fact that these are basically the 1987 Braves. There are a lot of similarities, actually. They're bad, but not the worst team in the division. As in 1987, they have new uniforms. As in 1987, they had a light hitting centerfielder hit for the cycle. As in 1987, they have an ineffectual Tom Glavine. As in 1987, there is no hope on a day-to-day basis. In light of that, I'm going to try harder to find parallels between the 2008 and 1987 Braves as the season winds down. Today: Jeff Bennett is the 2008 version of Charlie Puleo. Discuss.
Indians 9, Royals 4: Kip Wells has had a hell of a year, hasn't he? His baby daughter had a cancerous tumor removed from her spine. Wells himself had a blood clot that caused him to lose sensation in his right hand which required surgery. When he finally worked his way back, he was DFA'd in favor of Livan "the worst pitcher in baseball" Hernandez, and as soon as he set the suitcase down at home, his wife had another baby. On Monday, he was signed by the Royals and had to leave his new baby and recovering daughter to fly to freakin' Cleveland for some thankless, ERA-inflating mopup duty in this game. Wells has been well compensated over the course of his career, but that doesn't mean that life for someone in his position is easy. Guys like Wells are tough. They work hard. They have to put up with a lot of crap.
Cubs 5, Reds 0: Rich Harden was phenomenal. 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 10 K, 0 BB. He did that in 94 pitches and his manager -- the anti-Yost -- decided to pull him even though he only had a one run lead at the time.
Red Sox 7, Orioles 2: Having a pending divorce case agrees with Jason Varitek, as he hit his second homer in as many games and had an RBI double as well. As mentioned last week, the Orioles greeted their 50 millionth fan during this game. They talked up the notion that "special technology" was going to be able to identify the fan the moment they go through the turnstiles. Why do I have this feeling that one component of the "special technology" was a guy who quickly shook his head "no" if the identified fan was wearing a Sox hat?
Astros 5, Brewers 2: Sometimes you get the ace, sometimes the ace gets you. A day after bubkis against Sabathia, Houston touches Ben Sheets for five runs in six innings, keeping the Astros' delusions of contention alive for at least another couple of days.
Pirates 4, Cardinals 1: Ian Snell pitched well enough (7 IP, 4 H, o ER, 8K) to where he shouldn't have had to depend upon a Cardinals' bullpen implosion for insurance, but I'm sure he was happy to have it all the same.
Twins 13, A's 2: Did Kevin Slowey win this one with his two run-12 strikeout performance, or did Sean Gallagher lose it by giving up 10 runs on 11 hits? It's an age-old philosophical question that will vex the world's greatest minds for centuries, because it twists back around on itself in a seemingly infinite loop.
Tigers 11, Rangers 3: The Rangers' pitching staff strikes again. But you gotta love people from Texas. Descended from kin who tamed a savage land and carved out an existence on the frontier, they're an optimistic lot who just know that no matter how bad it gets, prosperity is right around the corner. Evidence? Witness this nice bit of wish casting about the Rangers' pitching for 2009. OK, it's probably satire, but when your pipe dreams are just as realistic as any guardedly optimistic assessment, why not dream big?
Marlins 6, Giants 0: On a night with many excellent pitching performances, Ricky Nolasco was the best, shutting out the Giants on two hits and striking out 11.
Diamondbacks 7, Padres 6: Adam Dunn has his best game yet as a Diamondback, going 1-3 with a homer, two walks, 2 RBI and 2 runs. Dunn said this game, which was his debut in Phoenix, felt like opening day, and that made him nervous: "Probably Opening Day and the opening day of deer season are about the only times I get butterflies." Deer season. And people think this guy is going to entertain offers from the New York teams?
Rockies 8, Dodgers 3: OC boy Ian Stewart comes home and hits a homer and drives in five runs as his Rockies send the Dodgers a game back of Arizona. Phun Pfact: After this series, the Dodgers have 35 games left, 23 of which will be road games. So far this year, they're nine games over .500 at home, but six under on the road.
White Sox 5, Mariners 0: I read this: "Ken Griffey Jr. hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly against his former team," and my immediate, thought-free reaction was "Griffey played for the Mariners?" Man, it's been a long eight years, hasn't it? And not just as it relates to Griffey's career arc. Hasn't the 21st century absolutely sucked so far, on just about every level? Aside from the births of my children, the spread of wireless broadband, the Buckeyes' national championship, and the new Batman movie, has anything worth a damn happened since the turn of the century? They say the Y2K bug was much ado about nothing. I think it was actually a slow-release neutron bomb of a thing that, rather than catastrophically disrupt society, slowly smothered it with malaise, dread, and disappointment. Thousands of people who are now dead shouldn't be. Griffey should have 850 homers and two or three rings. I should have my flying car. That those things are unrealized has pretty much defined my state of mind for the past several years.