Thursday, September 17, 2009

Baseball For the Weekend: These Races Need to be Closer

So, Baseball is coming down the stretch run, another weekend closer until we can talk about the Playoffs?!!....Also, with the weekend is another batch of always games are ranked on a scale of 1-5.

Angels vs. Rangers =4
SAT-MLB Newtwork (Weaver) vs. (Feldman)
Sun-TBS (Lackey) vs. Holland)

Well this is he Rangers last chance to steal the AL West from the Angels. They've had a solid year to build on in 2009 and seem to have found a formula for the next few years (provided they're able to keep Maddux as their pitching coach). However, when it comes to their 2009 Playoff hopes, they need to sweep the Angels to keep themselves in contention. If this don't happen the Rangers playoff hopes are most likely put on hold for another year.

The Angels, are in a much better position as they sport a comfortable 6 game lead as of this writing (thursday morning). They've gone through a lot of adversity this year, have had struggles in the starting rotation (though Lackey and Weaver are their two starters who have pitched well)..and have benefited from Kendry Morales' breakout year.

The Rangers start one pitcher having a good year (Feldman) the value of which is inflated by his 16 wins and one pitcher having a terrible year (Holland). They counter Morales in the breakout year department with ex-Brewer prospect Nelson Cruz.

Giants vs. Dodgers =4.5

(Penny) vs. (Billingsley) SAT-FOX

The Giants/Dodgers games have a tendency to be entertaining in September regardless of their places in the standings. They have a tendency to play spoiler to each other which is expected out of bitter in-state rivals.

This year it's the Giants who are fighting for their playoff lives after falling 3.5 games out of the Wild Card race and being shut out by Jorge de la Rosa, a pitcher who was so bad when he played for the Brewers that he got exiled to the Royals for Tony Graffanino. Brad Penny had an excellent start against these same Dodgers on Sunday and they need him to repeat that performance to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.

The Dodgers have the best of both worlds. They are likely playoff bound as they have a comfortable 5 game lead in the NL West AND they get a chance to spoil the Giants playoff hopes.

Either way, expect an intense back and forth game with a slight chance of this game being talked about years later.

Twins vs. Tigers =4
(Pavano vs. Verlander) Sat-FOX

Well, it's do or die time for the Twins. They have managed to get themselves within 4 1/2 games of the Tigers and a weekend sweep would be the first step towards wiping out 140 or so games of mediocrity and sneak into the playoffs.

The Twins start Carl Pavano in this one. Despite his injury/mediocrity laden past, he has a chance at redemption in Minnesota. When the Twins traded for him, I argued that the trade was unlikely to make an impact on the race. So far that argument has been weakened as Pavano has pitched reasonably well in Minnesota 3-3 3.75 era 111 ERA+. A strong start by Pavano here as the chance to kill my original argument and make me look like an idiot. Still, I wouldn't mind if this happens since this season needs an epic pennant race (or two) and the Twins playing well this weekend would be a first step towards that.

The Tigers counter with ace Justin Verlander who takes the hill in an attempt to shut down the Twins' said playoff hopes. Also, Verlander has a chance to increase his league lead in Strikeouts and Strikeouts/9IP.

Cubs vs. Cardinals =2
(Dempster vs. Smoltz)=Sat-FOX
(Zambrano vs. Carpenter)= Sun ESPN

In most years a September, Cubs/Cardinals match-up would be more compelling as these two teams are fighting for a playoff spot more often than not.

However, 2009 is a whole different beast as the Cardinals have left the rest of the NL Central in the dust, thus making this series less compelling.

The Cubs only post-season hope is if the Rockies and Giants BOTH choke and stop winning games all-together. That's unlikely to happen so for the Cubs the only motivation is playing for pride while for the Cardinals this series will be a likely playoff tune-up.

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