Wild-Card Races confused by streaks, injuries and the virus

The start of September is often a good time to take stock of the six-month regular season in Major League Baseball. The lists are growi...


The start of September is often a good time to take stock of the six-month regular season in Major League Baseball. The lists are growing. The playoffs are in a month. It’s crunchtime in pennant races.

With the playoffs set to begin on October 5, the final four and a half weeks of the regular season are set to be a mad rush to the finish line – at least in a few races. In a handful of divisions, such as American League East, AL Central and National League Central, the first-place teams have a sizable lead (at least eight games through Tuesday). The most interesting plot – by design, of course – lies in the wildcard hunts, where the format has reverted to prepandemic form.

Beyond the six division chiefs, 11 teams entered Thursday’s games within five and a half games of a wild card spot.

While each team has unique challenges ahead of them, the Boston Red Sox have faced a coronavirus outbreak.

The Red Sox, who fell from their perch atop the LA East at the end of July, they fought to keep a joker place. As of Wednesday afternoon, nine members of the organization, mostly players, had tested positive for the virus, while a few others were in quarantine as close contacts.

An 8-5 loss Tuesday to the AL East leaders Tampa Bay Rays was one of Boston’s lowest points of the season. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, the team’s best all-around player, reduced a scoring single in the first inning, but then left the game because his test result also came back positive. Manager Alex Cora motioned for Bogaerts to return to the dugout after he took the pitch in the second set.

“We must continue”, Cora told reporters. “They are not going to stop the tournament for the Red Sox. We know that. So we have to figure that out, show up tomorrow, play good baseball, do it the next day. “

Chaim Bloom, the chief officer of the baseball team, told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s game that the outbreak was’ heartbreaking ‘, that people’s symptom levels varied and that the Red Sox were optimistic that everyone would be okay with it in the long run -‘ but obviously we don’t know for sure until everyone has passed through.

Bloom said that “the majority” of Red Sox who tested positive had received a vaccine. Yet despite what Bloom called the team’s best efforts to educate their players, the Red Sox are one of seven majors teams that fell short of the 85% vaccination threshold for staff and players. key players – a line established by the MLB and the players’ union for easing restrictions on coronaviruses.

“Every person in this organization who is not vaccinated pains me,” Bloom told reporters.

As the Red Sox try to regain their health and the rest of the teams prepare for what should be an exciting stretching race, the various wildcard battles offer a lot of intrigue.

According to FanGraphsThe playoff odds, the Houston Astros (AL West), Chicago White Sox (Center) and Rays (East) all had at least an 88% chance of winning their divisions, until Wednesday.

Despite a recent slippage, the Yankees saved their season with a 21-8 record in August, which included a 13-game winning streak. But it still hasn’t been good enough to catch up with the Rays, the defending AL champions. So, for now, the Yankees are in control of the top spot in the AL wild cards thanks to a strong pitcher led by Gerrit Cole (2.73 earned-run average and 215 strikeouts) and a solid formation led by outfielder Aaron Judge (30 homers) and a base percentage plus slugging of .934).

The Red Sox were two games behind the Yankees until Wednesday, and despite their virus outbreak and some pitching issues, they stayed afloat. On their heels: The Oakland Athletics, who overcame a four- and seven-game losing streak in August to be two games behind the Red Sox until Wednesday.

Just behind the Athletics are the Seattle Mariners, who could be baseball’s most surprising playoff contender. They have the longest playoff drought in the Big Four North American sports leagues, having last reached the playoffs in 2001. The Mariners remained in the mix for a wild card spot due to contributions, between others, from their longtime third baseman Kyle Seager (15 home runs in the second half) and with a 28-16 record in one-point games until Wednesday.

The Toronto Blue Jays, who reached the extended playoffs last year as one of baseball’s most exciting young teams, could lay a late charge. With programming led by first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and second baseman Marcus Semien, the Blue Jays have one of the most powerful offensives in baseball. Their point differential – the number of points scored minus those allowed, which often serves as an indicator of a team’s overall quality – is the AL’s fourth best.

According to FanGraphs playoff odds, the safest division race is in central NL, where the Milwaukee Brewers have a nearly 100% chance of winning until Wednesday. The East (with the Atlanta Braves in the lead) and the West (with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the lead) are more confused.

The two best teams in the NL, in terms of record and run differential, are in the same division: the San Francisco Giants and the Dodgers. Only one, however, can win the division, and the other will see their season boil down to a winning or coming home wild card game against a team with a lesser regular season record.

After leading the division by five games in mid-August, the Giants lost their grip on Wednesday, when they lost their fourth straight game. The three-game winners Dodgers took the lead for the first time since April 28.

The Giants, who face a smaller virus outbreak than the Red Sox, and have reached the 85 percent immunization threshold, were 19-9 in August – fine, but not enough to fend off the Dodgers, who were 21-6. Since the All-Star break, Dodgers All-Star starter Walker Buehler leads the big leagues with a 1.46 ERA

After tough April and May, the Reds slowly climbed the standings to reach second in the wild card. They were propelled by strikes from first baseman Joey Votto (17 home runs in the second half, tied for most in MLB) and pitching from Wade Miley, who, by some advanced metrics, was one of baseball’s best starters this season.

After these teams, it gets complicated: Until Wednesday, four teams were within five and a half games of the Reds for second place wild card – the San Diego Padres, the Philadelphia Phillies, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Mets, in that order.

The Padres, who reached first place in the very competitive NL West at the end of May, but sprayed in July and August, are fighting for a place in the playoffs. The Phillies surged in their division and wild card races with the help of outfielder Bryce Harper, who passed Fernando Tatis Jr., Shohei Ohtani and Guerrero as the major league leader in OPS (1.014) to Wednesday.

Tied with the Phillies are the Cardinals, who, within two weeks in June, went from No. 1 in NL Central to No. 4, and have been trying to make up for it ever since. Once in first place in the eastern NL, the Mets were overtaken by the Braves and Phillies in August, and were a mess and off the field.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Wild-Card Races confused by streaks, injuries and the virus
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