There's one weekend of regular-season baseball left. You are getting closer and closer to pretending to care about Matt Garza's contract. This frigid hellscape will be your home for several months, and you'll be desperate for an Edinson Volquez/Yuniesky Betancourt matchup. And yet you spent the weekend not watching baseball for 12 hours each day. For shame.
These games were important, too. Well, some of them. You probably don't want to hear about the Phillies/Mets series. (The Phillies were swept.) (The Phillies were 98-58 at this point two years ago.) (Baseball is a fickle mistress.)
Here's what happened around the majors between Sept. 20 and Sept. 22:
AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARD DEATH MATCH
This is the biggest (only?) relevant baseball story left for the regular season, and it was a ridiculously eventful weekend, as four of the remaining contenders were in a series against a direct competitor for one of the Wild Card slots. The particulars:
- Indians: swept four-game series against Astros
- Royals: won two of three against Rangers
- Orioles: lost two of three against Rays
- Rays: took two of three against Orioles
- Yankees: won two of three against Giants
- Rangers: lost two of three against Royals
Which leaves the standings looking like this:
|Wild Card Teams||W||L||PCT||WCGB|
Everyone talks about the Dodgers' historic run, and that's understandable. Because it was historic. It's silly for a team to go from last place in May to clinching with two weeks left in the season. Don't forget about what the Indians did, though. They were a game under .500 on June 15, and they've gone 52-36 since then.
Okay, that's in no way comparable to what the Dodgers did. But it's still impressive. It's funny how we always spend so many words and thoughts before the season on who's going to win what, but when the season starts, you know what makes the difference? Ryan Raburn hitting like Yasiel Puig for 221 at-bats.
That's the difference. Sorry, Rangers. Should have picked up Ryan Raburn when he was uploading his résumé to Monster.com and exchanging texts with the GM of the Long Island Ducks.
And while it's not over or the Yankees and Royals, it's pretty much over. There are just six or seven games left for the teams ahead of them, and they would need at least two different teams to collapse. It can happen -- the '98 Giants were three behind the Cubs and four behind the Mets with seven games, and they still forced a 163rd game -- but there are a lot more examples of teams that quietly sank into the tar pits, never to be seen again.
If you're going to go out, though, go out like the Orioles. They were swept over the weekend by the Rays, which is bad enough. But in Friday's game, they lost in 18 innings. It was a six-hour, 54-minute game that employed a record 21 pitchers. The win-probability chart is hilariously monotone. And after all that, the Orioles lost a game they sorta had to have. That's not just handing in a resignation letter. That's throwing up on your boss's desk and kicking open the fire exit.
The Indians have the easiest remaining schedule, so they would have to really screw this up. The reason they were trailing in the race for so long? Because they hadn't played their full allotment of Astros, White Sox, and Twins games like the other teams. Makes a difference.
Congratulations to the 2013 NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals. Not officially. But consider this: The Cardinals are two games up, and while the Pirates and Reds are beating up on each other in the last series of the regular season, the Cardinals are hosting the Cubs.
But hold on. The Cardinals have to play the Nationals next, while the Reds host the Mets and the Pirates get to play those same Cubs. Flukier things have happened. We're talking about a good team losing three or four games while another good team wins five or six straight. Flukier things happen just about every week in baseball
So, anyway, congratulations to the 2013 NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals. If it's any consolation to the Reds and Pirates, just remember the Cardinals will be good for the next decade or so.
Lots of clinchings. Let's do a video roundup. First, the Blue Jays rolled through the East and became one of the first teams to clinch, just like we expected ...
And then the Nationals clinched, which was pretty much a given since the end of last season ...
Finally, the Rangers or Angels clinched, just as we all figured.
Which is to say, the last weekend was filled with teams that were kinda/sorta interesting before the season, but certainly not prohibitive favorites. Okay, I'll give you the A's because they won the division last year. But the Braves and certainly the Red Sox weren't supposed to be here. Not with a week left in the season.
Soright now, it's A's/Tigers/Red Sox and the winner of the Rays/Indians play-in game, with Dodgers/Cardinals/Braves and the winner of the Reds-Pirates play-in game. The odds strongly suggest that's going to be the final permutation. Feels so final when you actually type the names out.
The difference between us and Fox: You're rooting for Pirates/Indians, but Fox is rooting for Red Sox/Dodgers. Gross.
There were casualties.
But eventually, a guy with a broom and a bucket fixed everything.
Wait, no he didn't. Because he had a broom and a bucket. And the stadium was filled with bees.
I'll be honest with you, boss. Those bees didn't give an absolute damn about my broom. I thought they were scared of the bucket at first, but turns out they weren't.
Maybe if you twirl the broom a couple times ... oh, you tried that.
The freaky thing? Other than the stadium full of bees? Here's an Angels game from May:
The Los Angeles Angels attract bees. In Anaheim, in Kansas City ... bees. And Rick Honeycutt never pitched for them, so they ruined most of the pun possibilities.
Thorax ... stinger ... honey ... pollen ... look, I've ran through them all, and I'm pretty good with puns. And I'm not going to drone on and on looking for one. But I'm sure there's one out there.