As we enter the final weekend of August, the playoff chances are beginning to enter a�?they could always collapse” stage for a few teams, while others have it all in their own hands. The Mets have opened a 6.5 game lead entering Friday over the Washington Nationals: a team with Bryce Harper, a rotation that was the envy of the world in March, and a bad manager. The Cardinals can probably hold off the Pirates, but Pittsburgh sits just four games back. That brings us to the Dodgers, still 2.5 games up on the Giants. LA hasn’t pulled away but San Francisco hasn’t fallen off either.
In the American League, the Royals have 13 games on the Twins, the Astros are pulling away with a five-game lead over the Fighting Trouts, and the Blue Jays reclaimed a lead from an aging, aching Yankees team.
This weekend doesn’t present much in the way of direct playoff battles, but there are a few overlapping scenarios. The Pirates get to play the Rockies while the Cardinals face the Giants. Meanwhile, the Cubs are taking on the Dodgers. If the Cubs and Giants win, the Pirates and Giants could capitalize on very narrow division leads. The Yankees and Blue Jays both draw weaker opponents in the Braves and Tigers, respectively. The Nationals are playing the Marlins while the Mets take on the Red Sox. If Boston can overcome Mets pitching… well, it’s a tough assignment. The Nationals need a lot to go right to get out of their tailspin, including other teams beating up on the Mets.
Lorde Have Mercy
When Dayton Moore took over as GM of the Kansas City Royals in 2006, it was on the heels of a possible appointment to replace Theo Epstein in Boston. Epstein ended up returning to his old job and Moore took the position in Kansas City. As the rebuild stretched on, it looked like Moore was running out of time, and that’s when he made the move that, rightly or wrongly, will be remembered as putting the Royals back on the map: trading top prospect Wil Myers for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. While 2013 and even the first part of 2014 didn’t reflect what the Royals had become, Kansas City ran their playoff push to game seven of the World Series last autumn.
Needless to say, expectations for 2015 loomed large. Yet the Royals passed on a James Shields reunion, instead bringing in Edinson Volquez and counting on growth from young starter Yordano Ventura. With a 52-34 first half, the Royals looked like they were just continuing unfinished business. Combined with the decline of the Detroit Tigers, who saw Justin Verlander disappoint to start the season and Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez battle injuries, the division became theirs to lose.
Not content to rest with his team, Dayton Moore acquired help: first Johnny Cueto, former Cincinnati Reds ace, and then Ben Zobrist, the versatile infielder, outfielder, and all-around useful player.
Although the Royals just split a series with the Red Sox, they are running away with the AL Central. The second place Twins have problems of their own; even if they make it into the wild card game, this one is all but wrapped up.
Not to be outdone with the story they’ve already put together this season, the Royals also have a redemption journeya��of none other than today’s birthday boy, Ryan Madson.
Entering the season, Madson had last appeared in the majors in 2011 with the Phillies. After a change of heart, the Phillies decided not to retain his services as closer and opted to sign Jonathan Papelbon instead. Rather than a multi-year deal, Madson opted for one year with the Reds, which Tommy John surgery would rob him of entirely.
Ahead of 2013, he signed with the Angels. His surgery kept him on the disabled list until he was released in August of that year. He would sit out 2014 before signing a minor league deal with the Royals in January with the coveted a�?invitation to spring training” those contracts entail. In 51.1 innings so far, Madson has 47 strikeouts and over four times the number of Ks than walks (11). He’s sitting on a 2.45 ERA and a WHIP under 1.00.
And now, he’s headed back to the playoffs.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference