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

    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
    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

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