Okay, let’s not kid ourselves, all eyes will be on the Red Sox/Orioles, the Rays/Yankees, the Braves/Phillies, and the Cardinals/Astros games tonight. Four teams battling for two Wild Card playoff slots.
However, with the Rays and the Red Sox tied in the AL race and the Braves and Cards in NL race, I have to say two things:
- I have been a long-time proponent of two Wild Card teams for each league. If that had already been adopted, we would have had none of the tension we are experiencing today and none of the fascination with the collapses of the Red Sox and the Braves.
- Having said that, anybody who thinks that after we have the two Wild Card teams that there should be anything more than a one-game play-in, is crazy. I have been pushing for the excitement of the winner take all concept for over five years now and I believe it more than ever. We are in our third day of feeling the singular pressure of the game to game tension as the season wears down and there would be no reason to not have this tension continue, but to have it planned. I personally am rooting for two games tomorrow because its good for fans and good for baseball, although admittedly pretty lousy for Terry Francona‘s health.
Here are nine other things you should be paying attention to on this final day of the 2011 season:
- Last night, the Texas Rangers topped the Angels, 10-3. Meanwhile, Detroit whipped Cleveland, 9-6. The Rangers tied their franchise record for wins in the victory set in 1999, however the Texas Rangers (95-66) may need to break the record to hold off Detroit (94-67) in order to win homefield advantage in the ALDS. Detroit holds the tiebreaker if the clubs finish even. The team that finishes with the second-best record in the AL (the Yanks have the best record in the AL at 97-64) will host the Wild Card survivor, the loser heads to New York.
- No New York Met or Milwaukee Brewer has ever won a batting crown. That will only be half true after tonight. Last night, Jose Reyes went 3-for-6, with a pair of homers, against the Reds in the Mets’ 5-4 loss. Ryan Braun went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks in Milwaukee’s 6-4 win over Pittsburgh. Reyes, on the season, is now 180-for-536, good for a .3358209 average. Braun, on the season, is now 187-for-559, good for a .33452594 average. Reyes plays this afternoon, Braun tonight.
- Who wins the NL home run crown wasn’t three-way race until Prince Fielder had his first three-homer game since high school in the Brewers win last night. Fielder and Matt Kemp each now have 38 on the season. Albert Pujols has 37 on the year.
- The AL RBI crown is up for grabs between three AL MVP contenders. Curtis Granderson has 119, Robinson Cano has 118, and Adrian Gonzalez has 117. Whoever wins the crown still could be looking up to Justin Verlander or Jacoby Ellsbury in the MVP race.
- You have to know that Craig Kimbrel desperately wants to win the NL save crown over John Axford of the Brewers. I’m sure its not so much about the title, which would be nice, but a save for Kimbrel would mean a win for the Braves which would mean they would be alive for at least one more day. Right now Kimbrel and Axford each have 46 saves. Arizona’s J.J. Putz could end up making it a three-way tie as he sits in the bullpen tonight for Arizona with 45 saves.
- A win tonight for Cleveland or Toronto would give the teams a .500 record. Each team sits at 80-81 right now.
- A win tonight for Minnesota would spare them the ignominy of a hundred-loss season. They are 62-99.
- Eighters: Albert Pujols and Josh Willingham each have 98 RBI. Prince Fielder and Matt Kemp each have 38 homers. Carlos Pena, Robinson Cano, and Mike Napoli each have 28 homers. Derek Jeter and Emilio Bonafacio are each hitting .298.
- Niners: Michael Bourn has 59 steals, Coco Crisp and Brett Gardner each have 49 steals, and Jose Reyes and Cameron Maybin each have 39 steals. David Ortiz, J.J. Hardy, Josh Willingham, Nelson Cruz, Evan Longoria, Joey Votto, and Mark Trumbo each have 29 homers. Jhonny Peralta and Prince Fielder are each hitting .299.
FYI: Albert Pujols is 172-for-574 for a .29965157 batting average which counts (barely) as .300. Albert has hit over .300 each of the last 10 seasons.