- Posted: 8:43 AM, August 6, 2012
AL: Texas (1) vs. winner of Detroit (WC1) and Oakland (WC2), Yankees (2) vs. White Sox (3)
NL: Cincinnati (1) vs. winner of Atlanta (WC1) and Pittsburgh (WC2), Washington (2) vs. San Francisco (3)
Detroit's late, thrilling victory over Cleveland yesterday, combined with the Angels' loss to the White Sox, vaulted the Tigers into the playoff picture and the Angels out of it. Detroit gets the homefield advantage over Oakland for now because, while they are tied head-to-head, 2-2 (with a three-game series in Detroit Sept. 18-20), the Tigers have an intra-division record of 24-16 to the A's 17-17.
To reiterate for those who missed it previously, the Rangers get the seeding edge over the Yankees for now - the two clubs are both 63-44 - because of a 2-1 head-to-head advantage. The Rangers' visit to Yankee Stadium next week, for a four-game series, looms large.
--Now let's check in with our two local teams. The Yankees, having won three of four games, have erased some concern for now about their ability to keep succeeding despite the injury absences of Brett Gardner, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez. To me, though, what continues to stand out is not the performance of the Yankees, but that of their AL East neighbors.
The Red Sox seemed like they were poised for a breakout, following two straight dramatic victories over the Yankees in the Bronx July 28 and 29 and then two more wins over the Tigers at Fenway Park July 30 and 31. Then came a loss to the Tigers and three straight to the lowly Twins before a victory yesterday put them at 54-55. So there's nothing of note happening in Boston at the moment.
The always dangerous Rays, meanwhile, had won five of six through Friday and, with their superb starting rotation, seems like they were poised to make their annual run. Over the weekend, however, Tampa Bay suffered a pair of shutout losses to resilient Baltimore.
It's still way too early to anoint the Yankees as AL East champs. But with a seven-game lead in the loss column over second-place Baltimore, they have reason to think that, as long as they keep their heads above water, they can prevail.
--With the Mets, it's not about any other team. It's about the Mets. They correctly acted supportive of Matt Harvey yesterday, as he took a beating from the light-hitting Padres, and that meant that the Mets finished their 11-game Western trek at a respectable 6-5. They needed better than that to get back into the playoff race, though. They're 12 1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East and trail Pittsburgh by nine games (10 in the loss column) for the second wild card, with three teams (St. Louis, the Dodgers and Arizona) between them.
They'd never say it, but the goal for the Mets should be to conclude the season at .500 or better and end their streak of losing seasons at three. With Johan Santana on his way back, R.A. Dickey still at least in the Cy Young Award conversation, David Wright in the MVP conversation and Harvery learning on the job, maybe the Mets can not only make that run at respectability but also keep fans from entirely abandoning Citi Field for these last two months.
--Time for this week's Pop Quiz answer. Gary Mintz of South Huntington suggested this question: Name the former National League MVP who appeared as a Little League coach in the 2005 straight-to-video film "The Sandlot 2."
The answer is Steve Garvey.
If you have a trivia question that ties baseball into popular culture, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Have a great day.