Will the Underdog Come Through and Take the AL East Race?


September 22, 2009

Will the Underdog Come Through and Take the AL East Race? About a month ago, Boston's postseason chances seemed to be in limbo.

The Rangers were hitting their stride, the Yankees looked like the most unbeatable team of the century, and the Red Sox' offense seemed more catatonic than Chad Ochocinco, post-concussion.

But times have changed.

Now, as Boston looks toward its final regular-season series with New York in 2009, people are actually talking about the Red Sox sniping the division crown from the Bronx Bombers. But could it actually happen? Could Boston really thwart them?

As of now, the Red Sox are five games in back of New York in the AL East. Let's think about this for a second. Let's say the Yankees drop a couple games to the West-leading Angels while the Red Sox beat up on Kansas City. Let's say the Red Sox head into this weekend's series three games back, or even two games back. Then, let's say they sweep New York, or at least win the series.

It certainly would make for an interesting final week.

Of course, the Red Sox could drop three to the Royals while the Yanks win the series with the Angels. Then, the Red Sox could get annihilated in the Bronx. It's happened before.

But just remember: The perennial front-runner always loses when you never, ever see it coming. It can happen. No really, it can happen.

Just be prepared.

Playoff Picture
AL East: New York Yankees (95-56)
AL Central: Detroit Tigers (79-70)
AL West: Los Angeles Angels (90-60)
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox (89-60)

Breakdown: The Twins managed to make a race out of the AL Central after taking two of three from the Tigers this weekend. Minnesota has won six of its last seven games, and right now, it is 2 1/2 in back of Detroit. A race that hasn't seemed close for a couple of months is finally getting exciting in the final stretch.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies (87-61)
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals (88-63)
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers (90-60)
NL Wild Card: Colorado Rockies (85-65)

Breakdown: The Rockies had a terrible week, losing four of seven to the Giants and the Diamondbacks, but somehow, Colorado still owns a 4 1/2-game lead over San Francisco in the wild-card race. The Giants need to do big things this week against Arizona and Chicago, or else their miracle second-half run will have been wasted.

American League: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

If Mauer can somehow finish the job and lead the Twins to a late-season surge over the Tigers and into the playoffs, the award will be signed, sealed and delivered. The 26-year-old batted a whopping .556 last week with a homer and four RBIs as Minnesota went 5-1 against Cleveland and Detroit.

National League: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
As the Cardinals keep chugging toward the postseason, Pujols keeps doing what he does best. As St. Louis dropped two of three to Florida, Pujols hit .667 and slugged .889. But as the Cards took two of three from the Cubs, he went 1-for-10 with an RBI and three walks.

Cy Young
American League: Zach Greinke, Kansas City Royals

The 25-year-old phenom leads the majors in ERA (2.14) and ranks third in strikeouts (224) behind Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander. Last week, in five innings against Detroit, he earned his 14th win of the season after allowing only three hits. He tallied eight K's in the Royals' 9-2 victory.

National League: Adam Wainwright
Despite the fact that he is tied for first place in the majors in wins (18) and ranks fifth in ERA (2.59), Wainwright's name still isn't coming up all that frequently in Cy Young discussions. After all, he has Lincecum and teammate Chris Carpenter to vie with in the NL. Last week, Wainwright took his eighth loss of the season after allowing a mere two runs in seven innings against the Marlins, and in a no-decision against the Cubs, the 6-foot-7 right-hander allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits with 10 K's.

Rookie of the Year
American League: Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers
Ricky Romero's been getting all the rookie-pitcher love in the AL, but Porcello deserves a little bit, too. His numbers aren't stunning — he's 13-9 with a 4.22 ERA — but since Aug. 1, he has allowed more than three runs just twice in 10 starts. Last week, he took the loss at Minnesota after allowing three runs in six frames.

National League: Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves
In 19 starts with the Braves this year, the 23-year-old is 10-4 with an impressive 2.85 ERA. He earned his 10th win after throwing seven shutout innings against the Mets on Sept. 15, then took the loss on Sept. 20, when he faced the Phillies and allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings. Between the two starts, he totaled 15 strikeouts.

Weekly Wonders
American League: Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox
Maybe he should try to get the flu every week. The left fielder hit a home run against Baltimore on Friday night before leaving the game due to illness, missed Saturday's game, then came back on Sunday and hit another bomb. In his last seven games (prior to Monday's matchup against the Royals), Bay has four homers, 10 RBIs and a .875 slugging percentage.

National League: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
Now, he's finally looking like the guy who competed for Rookie of the Year honors in 2007. In six games against the Giants and the Diamondbacks, Tulowitzki hit .391 and slugged .913 with four homers and five RBIs.

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