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After the third week, the 8-11 Red Sox are already 6.0 games out of the division, and 4.5 games out of the Wild Card. Oakland is still ruling the roost out West, as is San Diego, which few saw coming. An eight-game win streak this early will do that. Washington is somehow above .500, and remember how well the Pirates were doing? They’re back in last place in their division, so some of the expected pieces are falling back into place. So much positioning is still up for grabs (four teams in the National League are tied at 0.5 games out of the Wild Card), so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, April 26, before the day’s games:
San Francisco is only 4-6 in their last 10, while the Cardinals aren’t much better at 5-5. These two just completed a three-game series in San Fran, with the Giants winning 4-1 and 2-0, then the Cardinals winning 2-0. After that series, I think it’s safe to say that pitching would decide this playoff series. The Giants have Lincecum and Zito, while the Redbirds have Carpernter, Wainwright, and Penny. This one will be hotly contested amongst pitchers, so Albert Pujols might just have to cast the tie-breaking vote.
Doc can only take Philadelphia so far; the rest of the pitching staff needs to get better and healthy in a hurry. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley can do what they can, but Adrian Gonzalez has homered in four consecutive games. Philly will need those pitchers to have a good shot at it, especially when you consider they need to seize home field advantage.
Oakland beat the Yankees once, but they also lost to Baltimore once. Tampa is an impressive 9-1 on the road, but only 5-4 at home, though don’t think that means it’s easy to win at Tropicana. Tampa is a defensive team that can also hit and run the base-path. They’re a lethal threat in the uber-competitive AL East, and without any playoff experience since being swept in the 2006 ALCS, Oakland will have a very hard time doing any better.
Here we go again, but this time, Minnesota has home field advantage. Mauer and co. have a three-game lead over the Tigers for the division, and don’t appear to be letting up any time soon. CC Sabathia is pretty much a sure thing for New York, assuming they don’t overuse him to end the season. On the other hand, the Twins are very capable of taking down Javier Vazquez. But taking down the rest of the Yankees staff, while holding off Jeter, A-Rod, and Teixeira? It’s a tall order for any team.