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Well under 50 games remain in the season, and we’re starting to get towards the final stretch. A few of the division leads are widening a little, but the Reds and Cardinals are still as close as ever. Minnesota is back in command, and the Orioles are no longer the worst team in baseball. The Yankees and Rays are still fighting over who gets to be the best team in baseball, and the Red Sox … not so much. And welcome back to the playoff picture, Philadelphia. But at a time when even the Orioles could still technically wind up as the best team in baseball, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, August 16, before the day’s games:
Philly has garnered themselves a percentage points edge over San Fran, which was just roughed up (again) by the Padres. And Lincecum is included in that statement. If he can’t even stop the Padres, then Halladay, Oswalt, and the returning Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will all need to be superhuman to move on.
After dropping a series to the Cards, the Reds are back on top of the division. Still, facing a Braves team which just crushed the Dodgers 13-1 won’t be easy. Pitching and bats will need to be working in perfect harmony for the Reds to pull this off.
The Twins have won their last four games to take a 3.0-game lead over the White Sox, and the Yankees just got blanked 1-0 in Kansas City. Then again, the Yanks had a little bit of trouble with last season’s nausea-inducing Nationals and still won it all, so the Twins won’t be a real problem for them.
This’ll be a tough one. The majors’ second 70-game winner against Cliff Lee twice. The Rays have had sporadic trouble with run support this year, but Lee has had the same trouble with his pitches; it’ll just be a matter of who buckles first. Texas has relied on home-field advantage for much of its success, while Tampa is just as good on the road as at home. So all the Rays really need to do is win Game 1, 2, or 5.