The Monday Takeaway
According to the playoff odds as of Tuesday morning, the Rangers are virtually certain to (99.5 percent) be dancing in October, and the Giants have more than a puncher’s chance (58.4 percent). Twelve hours earlier, the Yankees and Nationals, respectively, made them look like bona fide pretenders.
In the Bronx, Ryan Dempster retired the first six Yankees he faced, allowing the Rangers offense to build a 2-0 lead. Then, someone moved batting practice to the bottom of the third inning, and Nick Swisher highlighted the five-run session with a four-run missile into the second deck. The grand slam was Swisher’s 200th career home run, but it had nothing on this 441-foot, sixth-inning blast off the bat of Eric Chavez. And, as if those two bombs weren’t enough, Derek Lowe—fresh off the scrap heap and straight into mop-up duty—needed only 44 pitches to cruise through four innings and earn his first save since 2001. A game Texas led 2-0 ended 8-2 the other way, and the Yankees surged a half-game ahead in the race for the American League’s number-one seed.
Out west, the Nationals had no intention of letting the Giants get a head start before they raced ahead. Instead, Davey Johnson’s offense became the first this season to deny Ryan Vogelsong six innings of work, chasing him with two outs in the top of the third and eight runs already on his ledger. Both of the outs were strikeouts—against the opposing pitcher, Gio Gonzalez. And the Nats weren’t done, as they took full advantage of Brad Penny, who committed the three cardinal sins of mop-up work: delaying the inevitable with walks, handing the opposition more runs, and tossing in a gopher ball to Danny Espinosa, just for good measure. And speaking of cardinal sins, Joaquin Arias went straight from the field to kangaroo court for this inexplicable display of getting TOOTBLAN that made teammate Ryan Theriot proud. Or maybe Arias just wanted to get the 14-2 shellacking over with.
For the Yankees and Nationals, Monday night’s routs were a statement. For the Rangers and Giants, the aforementioned odds and chances at redemption tonight provide consolation. For this writer, who witnessed the latter mess firsthand? A poster will have to suffice.
What to Watch for on Tuesday
- Manny Machado is probably itching to get back on the field after taking a one-day break from his historic start. The rookie third baseman has a chance to become only the third player—joining Enos Slaughter and Will Middlebrooks—in major-league history to collect an extra-base hit in each of his first five career games. Red Sox starter Josh Beckett will be tasked with reminding Machado that successin The Show isn’t supposed to come so easily for 20-year-olds just two years removed from draft day. Beckett has allowed 39 extra-base hits in 116 innings of work this season (7:05 p.m. ET).
- The Tigers were just 39-42 on July 3, but they’ve surged back into the American League playoff picture by going 22-12 since then, and Doug Fister’s turnaround is a big reason why. Fister has contributed a quality start in each of his last six trips to the mound, posting a 41-to-6 K/BB and lowering his ERA from 4.75 to 3.48 in the process. The 6-foot-8 sinkerballer will try to keep on rolling in game two of the Tigers’ three-game set at Target Field (8:05 p.m. ET).
- Albert Pujols snapped out of a 1-for-23 skid in Monday’s series opener by going 2-for-4 with an eighth-inning home run off Vinnie Pestano, but he could not stop the Angels from falling for the third straight day. Mike Scioscia’s team has now lost seven of its last 10, and the recent lull has dropped the Halos to 2 ½ games out in the wild card race. They will look for Zack Greinke, who has coughed up 10 runs in 12 innings over his last two starts, to get back on track and play stopper tonight (10:05 p.m. ET).
- Looking for the current National League Cy Young award frontrunner? You might not need to look much further than Jordan Zimmermann, who has posted a 1.47 ERA over his last nine starts and compiled a remarkable 36-to-3 K/BB in 35 innings since the All-Star break. Somehow, for all of that success, the 26-year-old northpaw remains the senior circuit’s best-kept secret. He carries a 7-3 record and 1.87 ERA in 12 road starts into tonight’s duel with Madison Bumgarner and the Giants (10:15 p.m. ET).