Playoff watch: Mediocrity reigns in AL

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
10:54
AM ET
Let's be honest: The American League wild-card "race" is more like two marathon runners stumbling to the finish line. As my colleague Jim Caple points out, over the past month the Rangers are 11-16, the Rays are 13-16, the Orioles are 14-15, the Yankees are 15-13, the Royals 16-14 and the Indians 16-12. The six wild-card contenders are a combined one game under .500 since Aug. 15. Not exactly gripping baseball going on here.

At-bat of the day: Justin Morneau hit the go-ahead single in the eighth inning of Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over the Cubs, but how about Josh Donaldson's first-inning, two-out homer to give the A's an early 2-0 lead over the Rangers. Oakland would go on to a 5-1 victory, completing the sweep and essentially wrapping up the division title. By the way, Baseball-Reference AL WAR leaders: Mike Trout 8.7, Donaldson 7.4, Robinson Cano 7.1, Chris Sale 6.9, Miguel Cabrera 6.8. FanGraphs: Trout 10.0, Cabrera 7.4, Donaldson 7.1. Sounds like Donaldson has some MVP arguments, at least based on WAR.

Pitching performance of the day: Clay Buchholz walked four in six innings but allowed just two hits and an unearned run in improving to 11-0 with a 1.51 ERA. Buchholz is at 95.1 innings. Pitchers since 1950 with a lower ERA, at least 100 innings: Bob Gibson, 1968 (1.12); Ted Abernathy, 1967 (1.27); Bruce Sutter, 1977 (1.34); Mel Rojas, 1992 (1.43); John Hiller, 1973 (1.44); Jesse Orosco, 1983 (1.47).


Most important win: The Indians waited out a long rain delay to beat the White Sox 7-1 and climb to a half-game behind the Rangers and Rays. Maybe it will be Cleveland's year: Matt Carson, who had appeared in nine games as a defensive replacement, made his first start and went 3-for-3 with a home run, two RBIs and a stolen base.

Most important loss: The Rays led 3-0 in the seventh when David Price tired and then 4-2 in the eighth when the Twins scored four runs -- all after two outs and nobody on. Ryan Doumit homered off Joel Peralta, Trevor Plouffe singled, Josh Willingham walked and then Josmil Pinto smacked a three-run homer, sending the Rays to a devastating defeat. The Rays' next 11 games: Rangers (4), Orioles (4), at Yankees (3).

Monday's best pitching matchup: Matt Garza versus Alex Cobb (Rangers at Rays, 7:10 ET). Good news here for the Indians, Orioles, Yankees and Royals: The two wild-card leaders will beat up on each other over the next four days, opening the door for games to be gained. Garza has a 5.16 ERA over his past eight starts -- with just one quality start. The "best" deadline trade acquisition has been a huge flop.

Player to watch: Johnny Cueto is making his first start since June 28. The Reds are 3.5 behind the Pirates and Cardinals, but are now just 4.5 ahead of the streaking Nationals, who have won eight of nine. It would still take a sizable collapse for the Reds to blow it, but stranger things have happened.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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