Breaking Down the Playoff Races (09/24/2008)

Tuesday night fans were treated to some very big, very important games with playoff implications galore and as a result saw many teams step it up with big-time performances. Here’s my take on some of the more impressive games.

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Mets def. Cubs 6-2

One year ago the Mets were in the midst of a tremendous collapse and when they needed a big-game pitcher they turned to—Tom Glavine?! Sure Glavine might have been the go-to guy in the mid-90s but he is by no means a modern stopper. Johan Santana, however, is exactly that. With a career 57-17 record after the All-Star break and some of the most dominating pitches in all of baseball, Santana is exactly the guy the Mets needed to add this season and last night he proved why. Santana spun eight beautiful innings. He gave up two earned and struck out ten while doing some damage with the stick as well. This is why the Mets traded the top-half of their farm-system to acquire Santana. Interesting note: Santana will be available to go in the season finale Sunday if necessary.

Twins def. White Sox 9-3

“Keep the ball in the yard.” That’s the mantra for any team looking to defeat the White Sox. The ChiSox have proven all-season long that they do their damage with the long-ball and a relatively lights-out bullpen. Essentially, they’re the anti-Twins. This year the Twins’ bullpen has been horrendous due to the loss of Pat Neshek and the Twins have the second-fewest home runs in all of Major League Baseball. It was, however, the aforementioned mantra that would prevail on Tuesday night as the Twins only allowed one bomb (Ken Griffey Jr’s 610th) and went on to scorch the White Sox 9-3. The team was carried offensively by Jason Kubel who had a breakout game with two home-runs of his own and a triple. On the hill Scott Baker hurled seven impressive innings to help vault the Twins within a game and a half of the AL Central lead.

Brewers def. Pirates 7-5

Prince Fielder hit a towering walk-off home-run, the type of home-run that seemed oddly reminiscent of David Ortiz’s ALCS bombs in 2004. That one round-tripper could be just what the Brew-Crew need to carry them into the playoffs. Everyone knows that the best teams make the playoffs, but the hottest teams win in the playoffs. The Brewers have been one of baseball’s best teams all-season long and if that homer causes a ripple effect throughout the clubhouse, they may very well be one of the hottest teams playing deep into October.

Red Sox def. Indians 5-4

Cleveland’s Cliff Lee has been outstanding this season. Without a doubt he’s the AL Cy Young winner and–after working his way back from a demotion to Triple-A last season– he’s earned it. Tuesday night, however, he had one bad inning against the powerful Red Sox lineup and it cost him the win. This game wasn’t big so much because the Red Sox clinched a playoff berth, that was pretty much a given as both of the AL Central contenders faded in the past two weeks. This biggest impact of this game was that it officially put the final nail in the coffin on the Yankees hopes of making a 14th consecutive post-season appearance.

Dodgers def. Padres 10-1

The game itself was a laugher, but it proved the Dodgers’ resiliency in a big way. The D-Backs are getting hot again and the Dodgers were coming off the heels of a tough 1-0 loss to the Giants on Sunday. The Dodgers looked loose given the pressure, which further proves that this year’s mix of veterans and youngsters are blending much better to create a more cohesive clubhouse at the most important time of the year. Joe Torre is pretty much a lock to make the playoffs—barring unforeseen tanking by the Dodgers—and the way he handled this roster is a big reason why.

Rays def. Orioles 5-2, 7-5

The Rays sweeping a double-header when they’re already a lock for the playoffs shows why these guys are going to be scary in the post-season. They know they could be resting starters and playing out the string, but these guys want to win. They want to take the AL East and force the Red Sox to enter the playoff fray as the Wild Card team. I think taking this double-header proves that Tampa Bay is going to be wrecking crew in October, best of luck to whomever wins the Central.

Braves def. Phillies 3-2

The Phillies are not a lock for the playoffs. They have the Mets breathing down their necks in the NL East and then the Brewers in the NL Wild Card chase. This is a team that cannot afford to give away games to Atlanta when their ace is on the hill. Cole Hamels pitched a fine game (7IP/2ER/7K) and only got two runs of support from one of the most potent lineups in the National League. If the Phillies want to be considered a serious championship contender they need to play like one, day-in and day-out. I don’t think this team has the chops and I feel like they’re going to be the odd man out at the end of this weekend.

Cardinals def. Diamondbacks 7-4

Randy Johnson got roughed up by the Cardinals in another must-win game for the D-Backs. The loss serves as a serious blow to Arizona’s postseason chances. The D-backs trail the first-place Dodgers by three games in the National League West with just five games remaining. This comes after the D-Backs were anointed the NL Champs back in April and then proceeded to regress through the summer. Any team that is sitting one-game over .500 in the final week of the regular season would normally be long-since eliminated, but as has often been the case in recent years in the NL, it makes them alive—albeit on life-support. In my opinion, we can go ahead and assume that starting this Sunday afternoon Arizona fans can go ahead and start looking forward to Suns basketball.

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About Jeremiah Graves

I am a professional library dude, a cheeseburger enthusiast, a wannabe writer, a slow-pitch softball center fielder, an avid hunter (of churros), a cat-person, and -- hopefully -- one of your two or three favorite Iowans.
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