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Did anyone think Pittsburgh would be the best team in the majors at all, let alone this late? Don’t lie, you know you didn’t. Yet here they are, 51-30 (.630) and winners of nine straight. Boston has joined them as new leaders of a league, thanks to some problems in the camps of Oakland and St Louis. In fact, five of the six divisions are led by no more than 2.5 games, so things are very wide open. Going for a division instead of a Wildcard spot marks many teams’ best shots at this point, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, July 1 at 7:05pm:
With nine straight victories, the improbable Pirates refuse to drop off like in past seasons, and are now two games ahead of the Cardinals. Pittsburgh hasn’t played October baseball in some time, but with the way they’re playing, it’ll be tough to tell.
Arizona has lost three in a row, but all other teams in the NL West are below .500. Conversely, Atlanta has won three straight and leads the NL East by 6.5 games. Neither side is above .500 on the road, so with home-field advantage and an active winning streak, Atlanta has the advantage in this one.
Not too long ago, this would have been a thrilling powerhouse match-up, but with both teams’ struggles, it’s closer to an exercise in futility at this point. Both teams have much more than enough talent to snap back onto a winning streak at any moment, but for the time being, it’s been rough sailing. In a playoff game, Cincinnati would have to overcome their losing road record as well as St Louis‘ ace Adam Wainwright, certainly a tall task even for them.
Boston has become the first AL team to reach 50 wins. Not only that, they’ve done so while nicely weathering the injury bug, especially to key pitchers. Koji Uehara has performed very well to fill the hole at closer, and some younger guys are making noticeable impacts for the team. Boston finds themselves in a very good position, and will be very difficult for anyone to remove from contention.
Texas is 8-2 in their last 10, good for a half-game lead over Oakland. Four straight wins of their own have Cleveland half a game above Detroit, having erased a massive deficit in the division fairly quickly. Cleveland may be benefiting from a weak division, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. Especially with home-field advantage, Texas can definitely win, but Cleveland has a talent surplus in the outfield and the corner infield, so any hesitation from Texas and Cleveland will be moving on.
Oakland continues to jockey for position with Texas, while Baltimore has a comfortable hold on a Wildcard spot in the AL East. In fact, Baltimore has won four straight, including a sweep of the Yankees, never an easy thing to do. With Baltimore on a roll and having solidified a niche for themselves, don’t be surprised if they win the Wildcard game again.
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, MLB Playoffs, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers