There are just two more weekends of the regular season, you know. True story: I was itching for some football early Saturday -- sorry -- and I took a spin around the college football schedule. Every single freaking game was Florida vs. Delaware Tech or Ohio State vs. Acorn Poly or something, and there wasn't a game within a 20-point margin.
That's when the long offseason became real to me. I enjoy football, and Sundays are fun. But I'll miss the game where the worst team can beat the best team three times in a four-game series, and no one really notices. Your mileage may vary. But since you're here, probably not.
Go Acorn Poly. Also, here's a recap of some of the goings-on around the major leagues.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARD DEATH MATCH
Didn't it feel like this league was decided a month ago? It was Tigers and Red Sox, for sure, with the loser of the Rangers/A's tussle getting one wild card, and the Rays getting the other. Simple, neat, clean.
Now it's like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, with all sorts of goofy teams scrambling for the last slot. Except there's a twist, which we'll get to in a bit. A brief rundown of how the contenders did over the weekend:
- Indians: swept four-game series from White Sox
- Royals: lost two of three against Tigers
- Orioles: took two of three against Blue Jays
- Rays: took two of three against Twins
- Yankees: swept by Red Sox
- Rangers: swept by A's
Which leaves the Wild Card chase looking like this:
|Wild Card Teams||W||L||PCT||WCGB|
Anarchy. Total anarchy.
The craziest part, though, has to be the surge of the Indians. Not because it's so unexpected, but because of what they have ahead of them. Their schedule for the rest of the season:
@ Royals (3)
White Sox (2)
And so it was, on this day, in the Year of Our Trout, Two Thousand and Thirteen, that four American League teams were listed, and the only possible response was, "Well, at least the series against the Royals will be tough.
That's the Maginot Line of the American League. Don't fret, Orioles and Yankees. While you're futzing around with real teams, the Indians will get a couple of 100-loss teams and the Twins. Also, Ubaldo Jimenez is good again. Sweet dreams.
The Indians are just a half-game back of both wild-card spots, with the Rays and Rangers clinging to slim leads in the …
That is, the A's swept the Rangers over the weekend, opening up a 6½-game lead and putting the Rangers in a tie with the Rays for one of the two wild-card spots. The Rangers have lost every series since sweeping the Mariners at the end of August, including sets against the Twins and Angels. They're in a bad way.
The good news is they've been here already. After being swept by the Indians before the trading deadline, the Rangers were six games back in the West. They went 19-4 after that, including an eight-game winning streak, to put them 2½ up.
The bad news is that it took an incredible stretch over 23 games to make up that deficit. The Rangers have just 14 games left to make up 6½ against the A's. Not going to happen. So for the second year in a row, the Rangers move from the favorites in their division to a team fighting over the wild-card scraps. There's a good chance that the last 324 Rangers games will add up to two single-game playoff losses.
On Saturday, Yu Darvish joined some ignominious company, becoming one of the few pitchers in history to lose four games in which he allowed one run or fewer:
|1||Roger Craig||1963||6||Ind. Games||0||6||0.92||49.0|
|2||Fergie Jenkins||1968||5||Ind. Games||0||5||1.22||37.0|
|3||Don Drysdale||1964||5||Ind. Games||0||5||0.64||42.1|
|4||Jim Bunning||1967||5||Ind. Games||0||5||1.08||41.2|
|5||Don Sutton||1968||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.16||31.0|
|6||Robin Roberts||1958||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.09||33.0|
|7||Billy Pierce||1955||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.16||31.0|
|8||Lee Meadows||1916||4||Ind. Games||0||4||0.26||34.1|
|9||Jim McGlothlin||1971||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.33||27.0|
|10||Walter Johnson||1916||4||Ind. Games||0||4||0.23||39.2|
|11||Orel Hershiser||1989||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.24||29.0|
|12||Bob Friend||1963||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.14||31.2|
|13||Yu Darvish||2013||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.38||26.0|
|14||Wilbur Cooper||1916||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.20||30.0|
|15||Matt Cain||2007||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.29||28.0|
|16||Red Ames||1918||4||Ind. Games||0||4||1.16||31.0|
Even stranger: Darvish has lost all four of those games 1 to nothing. Roger Craig has the record for 1-0 losses up there, but Darvish could still make a charge before the end of the season.
The worst part is the Rangers had at least one runner on base in eight of the nine innings. It's exceptionally hard to get shut out with runners all over the place like that. Seven hits, two walks, none in the right permutation. And somehow, a team with a decent offense, in the hittingest park in the land, has conspired to provide its ace with historically low run support.
NL Central becoming two-team race
The Reds dropped two of three from the Brewers, which is nature's way of naturally selecting another team for the division title. The Reds are down 3½ in the division, but 4½ ahead of the quasi-relevant Nationals in the wild-card chase.
They're probably safe, but only if you define "safe" as a team that could go home after nine innings of unpredictable baseball. I'm kind of liking the new wild card in that respect. There's just so much to lose by being a runner-up. Sorry, Reds.
Red Sox effectively troll, honor Mariano Rivera
This is the best.
Every team in baseball is giving Mariano Rivera something for his retirement. The Rays had a horrific sand sculpture that made Rivera look like a melted Gobot. The Dodgers gave him a fishing pole. And so on.
The Red Sox trolled him. There was a 12-minute video before the thank-you ceremony. How nice! Over five of those minutes were devoted to an oral history of one of the most devastating blown saves in Rivera's career, which just happened to lead to a slightly memorable Red Sox win.
This is how it's done: respectful, but acknowledging the presence of the rivalry. Imagine if the Red Sox had a pre-game ceremony that described Rivera as the greatest thing since colored hosiery. It would have made everyone puke. The Red Sox wanted to be good sports, but they also wouldn't pretend Rivera pitched for any other team.
This was an excellent compromise, then. Remember that time we got to you? Not the 598 times you got to us? How about we cover both?
I'm going to miss you, baseball.