On your mark, get set, go!
The sprint to the finish line in a marathon that started in late March reaches a crescendo beginning on Monday when teams reach the 20-games remaining mark.
Thanks to the Athletics going through their worst slump of the season – which seemed to start when their best offensive player was traded – the Angels are in total control of the AL West and should soon be pouring champagne over each other’s heads.
That puts the focus on the battle for second and home-field advantage in a one-game play-in game between Wild Card teams. The A’s are scuffling home and away while the Mariners are purring on the road, having just finished a 5-2 trek through Oakland and Arlington.
The Mariners have a three-game series against much-improved Houston starting Monday night, and end the short homestand with a three-game weekend series against the Athletics, who enter the week just two games ahead of Seattle.
At the same time the A’s and Mariners are battling it out in Seattle, the Dodgers and Giants have a huge three-game series at AT&T Park in SF. A Dodgers sweep could all but nail down the NL West title, although the two rivals meet again in LA to begin the final week of the regular season.
1. Angels (1): It looks a lot like the best team in the AL will be the first club to clinch a division championship, say, around Sept. 20 or so.
2. Dodgers (2): A GW tip of the cap to Vin Scully for being presented The Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award. We can’t think of a more deserving recipient.
3. Mariners (5): That old adage that contending teams win at home and split on the road does not fit this club, which is splitting (36-36) at home and winning big (42-27) on the road.
4. Giants (4): Buster Posey, the straw that stirs the Giants’ drink, is putting on a MVP-kind of finish yet again.
5. Athletics (3): The Bill Bavasi Rule all GMs should follow: Never, ever trade a productive offensive player who can help you win every day for a starting pitcher who can only win once every five days.
6. Padres: (6): Rock bottom to a rocky season occurred this past weekend when the Pads were shut out twice during a three-game series in Denver, of all places.
7. Astros (7): No truth to the rumor that the Astros will receive a ticket-tape parade if they 1) don’t finish last and 2) don’t lose at least 100 games.
8. Rockies (10): A three-game sweep of the Padres qualifies as way too little way too late.
9. Diamondbacks (8): Let the housecleaning begin as GM Kevin Towers becomes the first to go under the pink-slip command of Tony LaRussa.
10. Rangers (9): In the most stunning in-season resignation since Mike Hargrove bolted the Mariners a few years back, skipper Ron Washington dropped a bombshell on the Rangers this past week.
(Last week’s ranking in parenthesis)