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Coming up on the end of April, the Athletics have slowed and brought the AL lead into a pileup. That’s also true more than ever of the NL Wildcard race. The AL East is stretching out a bit, while the NL West is contracting. Teams all over the place are still having trouble breaking free of the pack, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, April 28, before the day’s games:
The Brewers still have a stranglehold on the NL Central, but through no fault of their own, Atlanta is hot on their tail. Even so, the Brewers have still only lost once on the road. They have plenty of pitching talent and an assortment of talented bats, though Ryan Braun is day-to-day with an intercostal strain. There’s plenty of time before the playoffs begin, but rib injuries can be nagging without care.
Four straight wins have Atlanta within half a game of the West lead. San Francisco has won four straight themselves, but it’s taken them until now to get to this point, whereas the Braves have done so well all season. The Giants have what it takes, but the Braves, barring any setbacks, may be too good.
The Mets are trying to be this year’s Pirates, surpassing all expectations and making it back into the playoffs. So far, the Mets have been consistent enough to make it happen. Colorado is right in the mix in a tough division and very crowded Wildcard race, which will make it difficult to hold everyone off. It’ll be an interesting contest, but the Mets (other than Curtis Granderson) have minimized “sexy” names on their roster and have lesser known but important talent, something that worked for the 2013 Red Sox.
In a turbulent time for the AL, the Yankees have widened their division lead and are in the thick of things with Texas and Oakland. Michael Pineda is in trouble for pine tar again, Ivan Nova will have Tommy John surgery, but at least David Robertson is back to protect leads. Health is an issue, but a solid plan for life without a few guys can definitely mitigate that.
The offseason’s biggest trade, Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder, would make for an intriguing series. Texas has risen up to challenge Oakland (and the Yankees), while Detroit has played four less games but could be #1 if they win out in those four. Pitching remains a huge draw for both sides, so working up the pitch count early could make the difference in this series.
It’s been a few years since the Twins have made much noise, but they’re only a game behind Detroit. Two straight losses for the Athletics to Houston are definitely embarrassing, but they’re still tied for the AL lead. Oakland has some great arms, which could stifle Minnesota’s bats, which have grown out of use in October.