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The season has almost reached 100 games and the trade deadline, and still much is up in the air. Texas and Atlanta are the only teams with at least a 5.0-game division lead. Dan Haren will help the Angels try to say something about that, though. Minnesota is back within a game of their division, and Cincinnati and St. Louis are still at odds with each other in a dead heat. After choking so much against Seattle, the Red Sox are pretty much an afterthought. The Phillies, Brewers, and Giants have all won their last four, but only the Giants are making things relatively interesting, holding the Wildcard and being 3.0 games back of the Padres. With so much dealing to be done before the trade deadline to shake the picture up a little, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, July 26, before the day’s games:
Now this is an interesting one. The Padres have gotten this far primarily on pitching, but the Cardinals have Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and if the Astros get antsy and lower their price before the end of the month, Roy Oswalt (though not likely). And as for Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols should be enough of a match to neutralize that advantage.
The Giants have one of the most solid rotations in baseball; Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, and even Madison Bumgarner can all do very well for themselves, not to mention Brian Wilson. Buster Posey is now a very hot bat for them, too, following the trade of Bengie Molina. Atlanta had better be on their guard, and really exploit home-field advantage.
Chicago has faltered lately against Oakland, while the Yankees beat KC 12-6 en-route to a date with Cleveland. Minnesota is closing the gap on Chicago with a vengeance, too. And you know the Yankees will still have plans for signing Cliff Lee during the off-season, and maybe might still pull out a Roy Oswalt surprise (being one of the few teams that could afford him). Either way, Yankees all the way.
The Rays are sitting pretty in the Wildcard spot, just as Texas is sitting pretty at #2. With Cliff Lee anchoring the team, the Rangers will be difficult to beat. The Rays did lose two of three in Texas, before the Lee era. And with Carl Crawford’s propensity for getting hit in the groin, Tampa had really better break out the bats and pitching of their own to win.