Close games are an inevitable part of baseball and often the difference between making the postseason and enjoying an extended offseason. Of the ten playoff teams from 2021, only three finished with a losing record in one-run games, and all but one of those teams won at least 20 one-run games on their way to the postseason. Finding a way to nail-biting victories is an indicator of long-term success.
As such, we’ll be keeping a running tally on which teams have the most one-run wins throughout the season.Toronto Blue Jays
Record in One-Run Games: 18-12 (1-1 this week)
If there’s one thing that the Toronto Blue Jays do wrong, it’s definitely pitching. The Jays’ staff pitched the ninth-worst earned run average this week, giving up the second-most home runs. Although their hitters can bail them out, below-average pitching prevents them from winning games.
Toronto split a pair of one-run games this week against their intradivisional rivals, the Boston Red Sox. The Jays knocked off the Sox 6-5 on Tuesday last week before dropping the next contest by an identical score. The AL East contenders were sitting pretty, taking the next two games against the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s when the wheels fell off; Toronto dropped three straight against the Rays, giving up a combined 24 runs, before losing the series opener to the Oakland Athletics on Monday.
The Jays’ lead atop our one-run win rankings is dwindling, recording just three close wins since June 1. Moreover, the way Blue Jays’ pitchers are throwing, Toronto won’t need to worry about playing in one-run games anytime soon.New York Yankees
Record in One-Run Games: 17-7 (1-1 this week)
The New York Yankees continue to assert themselves over the entire league, compiling the most wins and the best winning percentage in the majors. That’s analogous to their performances in close games, as they continue to move up the one-run win rankings.
This week was one of the Yankees’ least productive weeks, with the AL East leaders going just 1-1. New York escaped with a 2-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics early in the week before losing 2-1 to the AL West-leading Houston Astros. That was the Yankees’ third loss in five games to the Yankees and could be foreshadowing what to expect if these teams meet in the postseason.
It was an uncharacteristic week for the Yankees, relying more heavily on pitching than hitting over their recent sample. The Pin Stripes put up a .691 on-base plus slugging percentage with a paltry .209 batting average, fourth-worst in the MLB. Conversely, they put together the fourth-best earned run average en route to a 4-2 record.
The Yankees have elite-rated hitting and pitching. As we saw this week, one will be ready to pick the other up when they falter, meaning more close wins should be anticipated.Seattle Mariners
Record in One-Run Games: 16-12 (2-0 this week)
Out of nowhere, the Seattle Mariners emerged as a wild card contender, partly thanks to their ability to win close games. Seattle finished the week with a 5-1 record, including a perfect 2-0 mark in one-run games. That’s part of a more significant trend that has seen the Mariners go 11-3 overall and 4-1 in close games over the last couple of weeks, moving them to third in our rankings.
The Mariners’ one-run wins this week came against the lowly Athletics, but they were much-needed victories as the team tries to keep pace with the top teams in the American League. The M’s found a new gear with their pitching, churning a 2.67 earned run average with 58 strikeouts across 54.0 innings. That’s in addition to above-average production at the plate, with Mariners’ hitters combining for a .750 on-base plus slugging percentage.
It took a few months to recapture last season’s glory, but the Mariners are showing no signs of slowing down. If they can sustain this production, we should see more wins accumulate for the team that finished 2.0 games out of a wild card berth last year.