Mascot Raymond of the Tampa Bay Rays gets the crowd fired up just after a game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
You watched football all weekend, but baseball's still going strong. Here are the major stories you missed so you can bring yourself back up to speed.
What's that? You spent your entire weekend watching football? Gosh, I couldn't have guessed. But here you are, crawling back. You always come crawling back to the sport that doesn't take six days off between games. I guess I'm supposed to fill you in on the important baseball stories you missed while you were off cheating with another sport. Whatever. Here. I'll tell you the stories, but I won't enjoy telling you the stories. When will you learn your lesson!
As recently as Tuesday night, the Red Sox had an eight-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card. That lead is now three-and-a-half games, as the Rays completed a three-game sweep of the Sox in St. Petersburg. It's important to understand that the Red Sox still have the overwhelming advantage - they have a three-and-a-half-game lead with two and a half weeks left in the season. Their CoolStandings playoff odds are 88.2 percent. But then, just days ago they were 99.4 percent, so it's not like things are trending well. Suddenly there's a race where there wasn't a race before, and the Sox and Rays meet again for a four-game set this Thursday. Baseball theater!
The Braves began the weekend 84-60, seven-and-a-half games up on the St. Louis Cardinals for the Wild Card. The Cardinals proceeded to sweep the Braves, so - as in the AL - the NL suddenly has the makings of an unexpected playoff race. The Braves' playoff odds are 92.9 percent, down from 98.4 percent. For those who enjoy baseball drama, the Rays and Cardinals couldn't have done more over the weekend than they did. One must note that the Cardinals get to finish with three games against the Astros, who are currently fielding a lineup of well-meaning preteens and inanimate lawn jockeys.
If the Tigers were literally on fire, one figures they'd be doing the opposite of what they've been doing. On Sunday, the Tigers beat the Twins 2-1, which was Detroit's ninth consecutive victory. They've swept the Twins, they've swept the Indians, and they've swept the White Sox. The race in the AL Central is long dead, and now the Tigers have turned their sights towards home-field advantage. Since arriving by trade, Doug Fister is 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 41 strikeouts and 5 walks. The Tigers are that much more fearsome with actual help behind their ace.
On Sunday - September 11 - all the Mets wanted to do was wear special hats to honor the 9/11 first responders. Major League Baseball denied their request. It's a difficult situation, because on the one hand MLB has its rules and there is a precedent for their decision, but on the other, they're just hats, and now MLB gets to look really bad in the public eye. Unanimity aside, I feel like granting the Mets' request would've made a lot of people happy, and it's not like the tribute would've damaged the integrity of the game. But whatever. They're just hats.
Neal Huntington's contract got extended
The Pittsburgh Pirates are bad again, but they're a different bad, a more promising bad, so general manager Neal Huntington had his contract extended through 2014, with a 2015 option. Incidentally, I've seen a lot of headlines reading "Neal Huntington Extended." That isn't true, although that would be a way more interesting story.