Beyond Golf — 15 September 2014 by Jim Street
Power Rankings: Five still in running

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, five of the 10 west division teams are still in the running for post-season berths.

The Angels of Los Angeles go into Monday night’s series opener against the Mariners at Anaheim Stadium with a magic number of three to secure their first AL West title since 2009. The best team in the Majors could be dousing each other with champagne — except for Josh Hamilton — before the Mariners leave Anaheim of Los Angeles for the second stop on an 11-game, three-city, three time zones, road trip.

Before he leaves office, Commissioner Bud Selig should look into the MLB schedule-maker and let them know that playing four games in the Pacific Time Zone (Anaheim of Los Angeles), three in the Central Time Zone (Houston) and four games in the East Time Zone (Toronto) with no off-days, should forever be outlawed.

Of course, the way the Mariners have played on the road this season (42-28) as compared to home (38-40), the next 11 road games might actually boost their playoff hopes.

As it is, the Angels of Los Angeles (93-56) have all but mathematically clinched a playoff spot and could be joined by the Athletics (83-66) and Mariners (80-68). Either the Tigers (83-66) or Royals (81-67) will win the Central, with the non-champion ending up in the Wild Card picture. The Orioles (89-60) figure to be the only team in the AL East to reach the playoffs.

The NL West could wind up with two playoff teams – Dodgers (85-64) and Giants (82-67). The Pirates (79-70) and Brewers (78-72) are in the NL Wild Card picture.

So buckle up and enjoy what’s left of the regular season.

This week’s power rankings:

1. Angels (1):  It’s now all about making sure everyone is healthy for the playoffs, which begin the first week of October in Anaheim of Los Angeles.

2. Dodgers (2): Losing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu to shoulder injury (MRI on Monday) could be devastating blow to the team during the postseason.

3. Giants (4): The best thing about the 17-0 loss to rival Dodgers was manager Bruce Bochy handing the ball to his son, Brett, in the sixth inning – the first in MLB history that has happened.

4. Athletics (5): Skipper Bob Melvin must feel like a dentist as producing runs the past six weeks has been like pulling teeth for his struggling team.

5. Mariners (3): If the much-improved team misses the playoffs, it might look back to Saturday night’s extra-inning loss to the A’s (on four Fernando Rodney walks) as the most costly defeat.

6. Padres: (6): If only MLB games lasted six innings, just like in Little League. The Pads are 51-1 this season when leading after six.

7.  Astros (7): Besides ending a streak of three consecutive 100-plus loss seasons, including a franchise-worst 111 losses a year ago, the Astros’ “magic number” for not finishing in last place is five.

8. Rockies (8): All may not be lost for the reeling Rockies as Justin Morneau heads into the final two weeks of the season battling for the NL batting average title.

9. Rangers (10): Besides looking for a new manager, although interim skipper Tim Bogar seems to be doing a fine job, the Rangers are looking ahead to a much healthier 2015 season.

10. Diamondbacks (9): The recent devastating monsoon rains just added to the overall misery D-backs fans have endured virtually the entire season.

(Last week’s ranking in parenthesis)

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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