Just a couple weeks left in the season ...
- Today we take a look at the divisional races in the American League, among some of the best contested races in baseball right now. In the AL West, the Rangers hold a three game lead over the A's, which would be tough for the A's to overcome at this point - but it used to be much, much higher. And the A's will get their chance, starting today: the teams face each other for four games this week In the Central, the White Sox are clinging to their two game lead over the Tigers, and the teams will play each other for the last time today (makeup game). In the AL East, it's a one game lead for the Yankees, who've been fending off the Orioles as best they can. The Rays, now five games out, have probably given up the ghost on the AL East. The O's and Yankees don't play again this year.
- That two game White Sox lead, by the way? It would have been just one if the Tigers hadn't blown a save yesterday against the dreadful Indians. The Tigers had won four in a row, and were up 6-5 in the 9th when Jose Valverde gave it up.
- Chris Carpenter will make his first start of the season for the Cardinals on Friday, taking on the Cubs. Carpenter, who's been suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, was not expected to pitch at all this year, so even a couple starts would be a boon to the Cardinals' playoff hopes (they currently hold a mere one game lead over the Dodgers for the second Wild Card spot, after beating the Dodgers in LA yesterday).
- After being knocked around by the Cubs, James McDonald has been yanked from the Pirates' rotation in favor of rookie Kyle McPherson, who's been pitching in relief.
- After another couple homers yesterday, Ryan Braun's numbers on the year are once again pretty gaudy - .312/.387/.602 with 40 homers and 103 RBI. The OPS is nearly identical to the .994 mark that got him his MVP last year. He's got more homers this year, too. You know where this is going: can Braun win another MVP this year? After last year's controversy, it seems impossible, right? He leads the NL in OPS, homers, is second in RBI, and plays on a team that has suddenly and surprisingly returned to semi-playoff contention.
- Beyond the Boxscore takes a look at the difference between ERA+ and ERA-, and concludes that the latter is better.