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With just six weeks to go until playoff time, the divisions are finally starting to see some separation. The Yankees are a game ahead of the Rays, but the Reds are finally 3.5 games ahead of the Cardinals. The Phillies have opened up a 2.0-game lead over the Cardinals and Giants, and the Orioles are just six losses from being eliminated. The Red Sox are 33 such games out, too. With seeding still up in the air and several teams hoping to make last-minute pushes to get into the picture, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, August 23, before the day’s games:
Philly has the pitching to match the Padres (i.e. Halladay and Oswalt), but their road record leaves something to be desired. If Chase Utley and Ryan Howard can return to prime form, the Phillies could still make it through, especially if they copy the Yankee’s tactics from 2009 regarding a three-man rotation.
The Reds have equal 36-26 home and road records, while the Braves’ 44-17 home record is the best in the majors. But if the 2008 Celtics taught us anything, you can’t rely on home-field advantage. Still, after a 16-5 blowout of the Cubs in Lou Piniella’s retirement game, the Braves are clearly the favorite.
Cliff Lee vs C.C. Sabathia in a killer rematch? I’m down for that. But the Yankees rotation is much better, especially considering Andy Pettitte will be back by then. Add the bats to the mix, and the Yankees are the better team, and will likely assimilate Lee during free agency. And Brett Gardner has speed for them as well.
Minnesota’s pitching staff has surprised a lot of people this season, and their new ballpark has quickly become known as a pitchers’ park. Minnesota will need to take advantage of that and not let up, considering Tampa is an excellent road team. Tampa’s sporadic offensive struggles and pitching injuries are also something Minnesota needs to scout and exploit. Tax Andy Sonnanstine, and the Rays are out a long reliever / spot starter.