In Monday’s column it was the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks who took centre stage.
The results over the past few days mean they deserve top billing once again.
15 wins for Cleveland
The Indians swept a four-game series over Detroit to extend their winning streak to 15 games. Their win on Thursday showed why they are such a formidable opponent, with Corey Kluber dominating on the mound and the batting lineup launching five home runs.
I still think they get overlooked a bit simply by virtue of them not being a ‘big-name team’ such as the Red Sox or Yankees. Make no mistake, the reason they got so close to winning the World Series last season, and are surely heading back to the post-season again this year, is that they are a very good ballclub with a very good manager.
Things are going so well for Cleveland (84-56) that they are now just a couple of wins worse off than the Houston Astros (86-53). It’s looked almost certain for the past couple of months that the Astros would take the top seed in the AL with the best regular season record, but Cleveland are going to push them close.
The Astros are not giving up their position lightly and have put together their own seven-game winning streak, the most recent three coming at the expense of the Seattle Mariners.
In the American League East, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees both won their recent series 2-1 (over Toronto and Baltimore respectively) so the former’s lead remains at 3.5 games. The Yankees have a 2.5 game lead over the Minnesota Twins for the first Wild Card, with the Twins being hunted by the LA Angels (1 game back), Baltimore (2), Texas (2.5), Tampa Bay and Kansas City (both 3.5) and Seattle (4).
Coming up this weekend in the AL
The Mariners will host a crucial weekend series against the Angels as they try to stay in the Wild Card race. Given the number of teams ahead of them, Seattle ideally needs an 8-2 or 9-1 stretch over the next ten games to give them a good chance and sweeping a series against the Angels would be a great way to start it.
Texas are hosting the Yankees, whlst the Royals host the Twins, the Rays are in Boston and the Orioles will look to stop Cleveland’s winning run.
13 wins for Arizona
Just as Cleveland have carried on their winning ways, so the Arizona Diamondbacks have decided that this winning thing is a habit worth sticking to.
The D-Backs swept a three-game series over the reeling LA Dodgers this week to stretch their consecutive winning streak to 13. They now have a seven-game lead over the Colorado Rockies for the first Wild Card and you can now all-but mark down the NL Wild Card game for Chase Field.
The Dodgers are still a long way ahead in the NL West and on the verge of mathematically clinching a post-season place, but their recent run has shown how even a ridiculously hot team can suddenly go cold. They’ve lost seven straight, the latest against Colorado on Thursday night, and 12 of their last 13 games.
Another team that hasn’t had much luck of late are the Miami Marlins. Unfortunately for them, their recent three-game sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals, followed by a walk-off loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night, has basically ended their hopes of a Wild Card spot.
The Chicago Cubs split a four-game series against Pittsburgh and, with Milwaukee losing all three games against the Cincinnati Reds, that leaves them 5 games ahead in the NL Central. They’re not quite over the line, but that’s a good lead at this time of the season and with the talented roster they have you would now expect that race to be over.
That means there are three teams battling for one final NL play-off spot (Washington having the NL East almost sewn-up): the Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals. St Louis took three of four against the Padres during the week to draw level with Milwaukee and the two teams now trail Colorado by three games.
Coming up this weekend in the NL
The Rockies continue their four-game series in LA, having beaten Clayton Kershaw on Thursday, by facing Yu Darvish on Friday night.Â The Milwaukee Brewers have a huge series in store at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, whilst the Cardinals are hosting the Pirates.