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With a week remaining on the season, the playoff matchups are coming into focus.
Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout the game, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.
This week we discuss we take a look at a handful of division clinchers, discuss the rise of two young sluggers, and preview this week’s matchups with playoff implications.
All this news and more in this week’s Musings.
News and Notes
3 – Teams vying for two American League wild card slots. Oakland has a two-game lead over both Tampa and Cleveland, who enter the week with identical records. It’s possible we get a play-in game in the AL to figure out who flies to California to play the A’s. It’s also possible a team plays a play-in game on the East Coast, flies to the Oakland, then returns east to play the Yankees. That’s a lot of miles.
1 – Game lead in the loss-column for the Nationals who are leading the wild care race over the Brewers. Milwaukee is nipping at DC’s heels, and despite losing Christian Yelich, have a 17-4 record this month.
19 – Consecutive seasons without a back-to-back World Series winner. With the Red Sox officially missing the playoffs, a different team will take home the Commissioner’s Trophy for the 19th consecutive year.
2012 – The last time the Yankees clinched the American League East. New York has kept ahead of the pack throughout the entire season, despite a myriad of injuries. The Rays are a solid second place, but were never really contenders for the division. Aaron Boone is the first-ever manager to lead a team to 100-or-more wins in his first two seasons at the helm.
5 – Twins players with 30+ home runs this season. It’s a remarkable unit of vets and youngsters who have propelled the Twins to an unlikely Central pennant. The quintet of dinger-happy players include 39-year-old Nelson Cruz (40), Max Kepler (36), Miguel Sano (33), Mitch Garver (31), and Eddie Rosario (31).
4 – Game sweep the Cardinals handed the middling Cubs at Wrigley over the weekend. The Cubs entered the series with a chance to cut into the Cards divisional lead, and keep pace with the red-hot Brewers in the wild card race. In reality, Chicago lost each game by one run, and ended the weekend out of playoff contention, hoping for a miracle to get them to the postseason. Saturday’s loss was particularly brutal, as Craig Kimbrel coughed-up a ninth inning lead. The Cubs have seven losses this season when taking a lead into the ninth inning.
.999922 – Career OPS for Mike Trout, who is done for the season due to a foot injury. Only one player has finished a season with a carer OPS closer to 1.000 than Trout, as Rogers Hornsby finished the 1927 season with a 1.000011 OPS.
1986 – The last time an Astros starter posted 300 strikeouts, when Mike Scott K’d 306 in 275 innings. Gerrit Cole added his name to the list and in a much fewer innings. Cole has 302 strikeouts in 200 ⅓ innings. The Astros are running away with the AL West, and completed the 9-0 home-sweep of the Rangers last week.
1 – Rookie in the history of the game who has hit 50 home runs and 30 doubles: Pete Alonso. Alonso’s 4.8 fWAR leads the Mets, who although will miss the playoffs, have a lot to look forward to in 2020.
7/31/1983 – The last time a Yastrzemski hit a home run at Fenway Park prior to Tuesday night’s dinger by Carl’s grandson, Mike. It was a fun story in Boston that was a welcome distraction from a tail-spinning Red Sox team. Boston hosted the Giants last week, and welcomed Mike with open arms. Carl’s first home run at Fenway was hit on May 15, 1961 and was on hand for the festivities.
2000 – Wins for Bruce Bochy, he earned his 2000th at Fenway Park last week. Bochy is set to retire after the 2019 season.
3 – Players in history who have posted a 20-win season and a 30-save season: Dennis Eckersley, John Smoltz, and 2019 Ian Kennedy. The 34-year-old journeyman remains effective, despite a changing of roles, and while we don’t measure the value of a pitcher based on wins and saves, it shows how he’s adapted his skillset into a long and productive career.
The Playoff Picture
With pretty much every division wrapped-up either officially or unofficially, we take a look at the series that have playoff implications (and while the Cubs technically are not out of it…but they’re mostly out of it after their putrid performance last week).
American League Wild Card
The A’s have a two-game series against the Angels, before heading up to Seattle to finish the season against the Mariners. They firmly control their own destiny, with a two-game lead in the American League wild card race. All signs point to Oakland hosting the AL wild card game next week.
The Rays and Indians have identical records, and each enter the week with a chance to nab one of the AL wild card slots, or position themselves for a play-in game to face Oakland. Tampa Bay finishes a series against Boston on Monday night, then host the Yankees for two games, before going to Toronto for the final three games of the season.
Cleveland is on the road the rest of the year, with three games against the White Sox, before going to Washington, DC to play the Nationals. Depending on the Nats positioning in the NL wild card race with the Brewers, this might be the series of the week, with each team playing do-or-die games.
American League Home Field
The Yankees and Astros have the same number of wins, but the Astros have one up on the Yanks in the loss column. New York heads to Tampa for two games, then Texas for three. The ‘stros finish the season on the West Coast, with two games in Seattle and then four in Los Angeles against the Angels.
National League Wild Card
Washington has a one-game lead over Milwaukee for homefield in the wild card game. The Brewers are on the road against Cincinnati and Colorado to end the season. The Nationals have a tougher road, with five with the Phillies, including a Tuesday day/night double-header, and then they’ll have to play an Indians team that is likely going to be fighting for their playoff lives.
*All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching probables
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano