Friday, September 21, 2012

NL Wild Card Home Stretch

Astros team of unkowns playing spoiler
in more ways than one
Baseball fans: we're heading down the home stretch and the NL Wild Card race is far from decided. Oddly enough, the Houston Astros were right in the thick of things & made their mark for better or worse among contenders in the past 7-10 days. The only team in the majors that does not field a single player making more than $1 million dollars per season was both a thorn in the side on some days and easy prey on the other days last week. Either way, they certainly played a key role in the wild card standings. Here's the review from the last 10 days...

Atlanta Braves: Still on course to secure the top wild card spot in the National League. After being swept by Milwaukee, the Braves turned around and opened last weekend by sweeping the Nationals in three & then took two of three from Miami. That's what you call "statement baseball"; letting the rest of the league know they want no part of being in this madness. They're at 86 wins currently and probably need only a handful more to seal this up.

Carpenter and his shoulder
surgeon. Suspicious.... 
St. Louis Cardinals: After being swept last week by the Padres, the Cardinals entered into last weekend with a 4-game series vs. the Dodgers and left with a split at two games apiece. They then welcomed the Astros to Busch Stadium for three games and swept this Texan team full of 2013 "auditionists" (as they should have) and made what are probably the most significant strides among all of the NL Wild Card hopefuls. This race will come down to this: The Cardinals swept the Astros and bested a team that should be beaten in September. They also swept the Astros in mid-August (more on the Astros later). The teams making upward movement are winning the games they should win. The Cardinals survived a tough late August/early September schedule and will reap the rewards of a lighter slate in the next week.

More good news in St. Louis: Chris Carpenter returns from shoulder surgery today vs. the Cubs.

Brew Crew coming together
at the right time
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers are 14-4 since September 1st, 19-5 since August 26th. As a team, they hit 37 home runs in August and have already hit 25 in September. If you have any question as to which player is their leader, look no further than here. But, the resurgence of Rickie Weeks has had about as much to do with their success as Braun has. After starting the season posting monthly averages of .186, .132. & 231.  for April, May, & June, Weeks has batted .272, .279, & .295 for the months of July, August, & September respectively. As for facing beatable teams, anyone in the dugout opposite the Brewers side are beatable right now.

Surprising stat: The Brewers hit a total of 185 HR in 2011 with Prince Fielder in the lineup. They've hit 186 in 2012 through last night's games.

Dodgers are hurting down the
stretch in September
Los Angeles Dodgers: As I stated here before, the Dodgers are now mired in the midst of the toughest schedule among the other contenders. As above, the Dodgers split a 4-game series vs. with the Cardinals entering last weekend, then lost 2 of 3 to the Nationals -- although were dangerously close to being swept had it not been up to Matt Kemp. All he did was tattoo a ball into the far reaches of the center field bleachers of Nationals Park in the top of the 9th. The Nationals had just marched back to tie the game the previous inning after trailing 6-1. Even still, since hosting San Diego beginning on Sept. 3rd, the Dodgers have recorded a miserable 5-10 record. Their opponents? A hot Padre team, the Giants, D-backs, Cardinals, & Nationals. I told you September would not be easy in LA.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse: the Dodgers will be without reigning 2011 Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, indefinitely--and possibly for the season--but this news is encouraging.

This about sums it up in Houston
for Charlie Manuel's Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies: The momentum seemed to be building towards a miracle run for the Phillies. They had just finished off sweeping the Marlins at home for their 7th consecutive win and were heading to Houston to begin last weekend. Philadelphia was drooling at the task at-hand. But wait! Wasn't this familiar territory for the Phillies, you ask? Right you are. Incredibly, the Phillies lost 2 of 3 in September of 2011 in Houston, lost 4 straight to the Astros in September 2009, and lost 3 more in 2005. And yes, again in September...during a playoff drive. No team will be happier than the Phillies to see the Astros head to the American League in 2013. However, all doom & gloom history aside, the Phillies coughed up 3 of 4 "winnable" games last weekend to further frustrate the Phightens and extend Houston's uncanny success & legacy vs. Philadelphia in games that matter. However, this team bounced back in convincing fashion with a 3 game sweep of the NY Mets in Flushing, NY. This includes last night's 16-1 thrashing which saw the Phillies bang out 21 hits, of which 19 were singles. Weird. This game was over in the top of the 1st inning after the Phillies first 8 batters reached base en route to an 8-0 lead.

Steady as he goes: For a 1 year $800,000 contract, Juan Pierre has made this one of the biggest bargain free agent acquisitions of last year's off-season. Although he almost did not make the team in Spring Training, Pierre has played in 122 games, has a .318 avg .360 OBP and 35 SB while providing to be an excellent mentor to young outfilders John Mayberry Jr. & Domonic Brown.

Surprised? Not really...

Pittsburgh Pirates: They are 2-11 in their last 13 games and quite frankly, the Pirates have officially walked the plank. After being swept by the Reds last week, the Pirates entered the weekend with a grand opportunity facing the lowly Chicago Cubs, but could only manage a split with each team taking two games. It should be noted that it was dangerously close to only one win for Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field. While they did fight back to take the lead late in yesterday's game hosting Milwaukee, the Pirates continued their freefall after being swept by the Brewers for the second time in less than a month. Overall, in the last month, the Pirates posted a 1-8 record against Milwaukee. The only good news for Pittsburgh is their immediate upcoming schedule does give them a sliver of hope, but we all saw how they handled the Cubs & Astros earlier this month by posting a 4-6 record against the two cellar-dwellers. Strangely enough, even if the Pirates end up posting their first +.500 record since 1992, this season will have to feel like a lost opportunity.

Buried treasure: Andrew McCutchen will probably finish in the top 3 in the NL MVP voting, but you have to wonder where he'd be if the rest of his team didn't stumble in September. If the Pirates don't improve next year, how many more seasons until he wants to be on a winner?

No forecast this week, you all should be watching the games anyway. Next post on Sunday!

1 comment:

  1. Anxious to read carrot League's comments on the latest Phillies trades/acquisitions. Are we treading water ? Is the team in transition?
    At Christmas time hope always springs eternal. I dream while sugarplums dance in my head and Ruf will appear in his red suit with jolly red cheeks and become Shoeless Joe or Roy Hobbs before the fall (he could pitch as well as play the outfield then) Doc emerges with a bionic arm and gives us a sure win every 5 days. 4 sometimes. Young becomes young again. What do you see O keeper of the garden?
    Dolph Camilli