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September 21, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

Lots of Baseball

by Joe Sheehan

A 17-game schedule Wednesday provided enough baseball to last anyone...OK, about one day:

  • The Indians impressed the hell out of me, sweeping a doubleheader at Fenway to move back into first place in the wild-card race and push the Red Sox ever so close to extinction. The Tribe got seven innings of one-run ball from their bullpen, including four shutout innings in a come-from-behind second-game win. Steve Woodard, brutal since coming over from Milwaukee, outpitched Pedro Martinez for six innings in the first game, and shares the hero's role with Omar Vizquel.

    Even at that--and the post-game coverage aside--the Sox aren't dead. They're four games behind the Indians going into today's doubleheader, and just as capable as the Indians of taking a pair. They probably need both, though; being four games out and stuck behind three teams with nine games left would probably be the end. They desperately need Carl Everett back in the lineup.

  • The Sox, by the way, are fourth in line because the Blue Jays have turned into the best team in the league. In the AL East, anyway. With their second straight win over the Yankees, Toronto stayed three games out in the wild-card race and leapfrogged over Boston. The Jays have an advantage none of the other teams do: they close the season at Jacobs Field, so they would control their destiny next weekend, the A's notwithstanding.

    The Jays play a huge game tonight. Like the Sox did yesterday, they have their ace going in a game they need to win against a team that's probably better than them. If they can beat the Yankees behind David Wells, they get a weekend against the free-falling Devil Rays, and Chris Kahrl and I start laying in the champagne.

  • Out West, the Mariners extended their lead over the A's to three games by winning their eighth straight game. If the Ms do make it into the first week of October, they really ought to send a couple cases of a nice merlot to Camden Yards and the TropDome, because the Orioles and Devil Rays...well, let's just say this isn't the most impressive eight-game winning streak in baseball history.

    The "three-game lead" is a slight misnomer, because the A's are just two games back in the loss column heading into their four-game series in Seattle. They can probably afford a split and still have a shot at the AL West title. Taking three of four would move them into a virtual tie and pull the Mariners into the morass of the wild-card chase. Should the Mariners win three, they'd lock up the division crown and have the Yankees in their sights for #2 seed in the AL.

    Given the importance of the game, you can imagine how happy I am that my local Fox cable affiliate is presenting the Giants and Diamondbacks.

  • Ah, yes, the National League. The Cardinals clinched the Central last night, putting one foregone conclusion to rest. The Giants clinched a tie in the West about an hour later. The Mets staunched the bleeding by beating the Braves 6-3, cutting their gap in the East to just four games. The Braves, though, have pretty much clinched a playoff spot, and we can expect them to act accordingly from here on out.

    Looking for a story in the NL? OK, not that I have any credibility left on this topic, but the Dodgers have won six straight games, passed the Diamondbacks and moved to within 5 1/2 games of the Mets. Yes, I know the Mets have long been conceded a playoff spot and the Dodgers branded a $100 million disappointment. But just two years ago the Giants were in almost the exact same situation and managed to get to game 163; the Mets lost their last five games and missed the postseason altogether.

    The Mets do catch a break in that they play the Phillies, and face three left-handed starters, this weekend. The Mets have allowed themselves to become overwhelmingly right-handed on offense, which contributed to their struggles with the Braves' Greg Maddux and Andy Ashby, but will benefit them against Omar Daal, Randy Wolf and Bruce Chen.

    The Dodgers are simply getting great starting pitching right now. Their starters haven't allowed a run since Sunday, and the Diamondbacks score one run in the course of being swept. Los Angeles really hasn't gotten a bad start in almost two weeks, and are 8-3 in that span.

    Of course, they're not scoring, either: just four runs against the D'backs, with two wins coming on bottom-of-the-ninth home runs, and all three games decided by one run. That's the magic of Tom Goodwin and Mark Grudzielanek at the top of the lineup.

    This probably won't develop into anything. The Dodgers have been more lucky than good of late and the Mets have some good matchups this weekend. It's just something to keep in mind, something to make the NL mildly relevant for the next few days.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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