The all-star fun is done.
Now it’s time for the stretch run.
You bet, that’s catchy.
But baseball is poetry in motion, after all.
With that, let’s get poetic — give us some latitude on this, folks — about what lies ahead in the playoff race.
The Atlanta Braves (44-45) without Ronald Acuna Jr. (ACL tear) are done, right? That is until they traded with the Chicago Cubs for Joc Pederson to stay in the National League fight. Really, they and the Philadelphia Phillies (44-44) are not far out of the NL East lead, and do you really trust the enigmatic New York Mets (47-40) not to bleed?
The Cubs (44-46) seem done after a rotten run, going 2-8 before the break. They’ve lost NL Central ground on the Milwaukee Brewers (53-39) and the surging Cincinnati Reds (48-42), who we think are fake. But there are not enough bats to fuel the Brew Crew, so why can’t the Cubbies stage a late-season coup?
Over in the NL West, that’s where you’ll find the best. And it’s not like it’s the defending champion L.A. Dodgers (56-35) and then all the rest. The San Diego Padres (53-40) have proven they can keep up with the kings. And this has the makings of another magical San Francisco Giants (57-32) season that ends with rings.
The other fun race is in the American League East, where there are four legit threats, to say the least. But with all eyes on the surprising Boston Red Sox (55-36), the underachieving New York Yankees (46-43) and the talented Toronto Blue Jays (45-42), it just feels like the one to rise up once again will be those no-name Tampa Bay Rays (53-37).
In the AL Central, it’s much more ho-hum, with the Chicago White Sox (54-35) well ahead of everyone. It just seems like the Cleveland Indians (45-42) aren’t much of a threat, and with the rest of them dogs, the Pale Hose are truly the only real bet.
So we round it all out with the AL West, with only two teams battling to be the best. Yes, that’s a knock on the Seattle Mariners (48-43) who are just like the Reds. It’s time for their ship to sink, leaving the Houston Astros (55-36) and the Oakland Athletics (52-40) both in the pink. But which one will win out? Those dastardly Astros, no doubt.
AROUND THE BASES
OK, so that was oh-so corny, but here are our picks for the playoffs in short: the Braves, the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Rays, the White Sox and the Astros will win their respective divisions; with the wildcards being the Giants, the Padres, the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. The trouble with that is it means a dramatic drop-off for both the A’s and the Brewers — two teams that are oft-overlooked, which is what we’re doing here. Of course, if the Cubbies indeed deal 1B/3B/OF Kris Bryant in the coming days, then we reserve the right to replace them with the Brewers because there just isn’t any other strong enough squads in the NL Central … Others expected to be dealt in due course include: Colorado Rockies SS Trevor Story to continue the fire sale in Denver; OF Byron Buxton and DH Nelson Cruz because the Minnesota Twins (39-50) have imploded; and OF Joey Gallo with — surprise, surprise — the Texas Rangers (35-55) terrible once again … Word is the Yankees might want Gallo. Just what they need — another underachieving bat in that lineup, even though he’s an all-star (but really, who else was going to represent the Rangers?) … How’d you like to see the Blue Jays pry P Craig Kimbrel out of Chicago? One of MLB’s best-ever closers would be the best deadline addition by any contender, and especially big for the Jays, who need a stud in the bullpen.
The MLB slate got back in full swing Friday night with a whopping 17 games on the calendar, thanks to a couple of doubleheaders (Twins-Detroit Tigers and Phillies-Miami Marlins) … The idea was to feast your eyeballs on the Red Sox-Yankees this weekend. That rivalry was supposed to continue Thursday until COVID stuck its filthy nose into the Yankees clubhouse, making for an uncertain future in a series that’s seen the Sox win all six 2021 meetings over the Evil Empire. These games were set for the Bronx with a rematch of four more on the agenda next weekend in Beantown. Eight great games could go a long way to determining which team — if either — can be tops in the talented AL East … The Sox brought up OF Jarren Duran and P Tanner Houck for this series … Another hyped prospect, OF Jarred Kelenic, is back up with the Seattle Mariners to start the second half. The phenom didn’t fare well in his first 23-game call-up, hitting a measly 0.96 … Back with the Sox, the Chris Sale watch is on, as he prepares to pitch for Double-A Portland in the next step of his rehab from Tommy John surgery. The ace is expected back spinning gems in the bigs in August. Now that’s a trade deadline acquisition … Why are the Reds suddenly surging? It’s because they’ve been the hottest team in baseball with an 8-2 record in their last 10 games. But that racket could easily lose the next eight of 10 … A tip of the cap to gritty Baltimore Orioles slugger-turned-Home Run Derby star 1B/OF Trey Mancini. Wow, what a story! Just sayin’ … And while we’re at it, a tip of the hat to Mets 1B Pete Alonso, not only for defending his Home Run Derby title but for doing it with the kind of enthusiasm we’d like to see from all of our idols. He was having fun! … Speaking of the Metropolitans, for the back half of the season, they are breaking out the black unis they wore in getting to the 2000 World Series. The Metropolitans haven’t donned them in nine years, and they’ll need all the help they can get to win the NL East … With that, we’ll fade to black, too, as ‘We’re outta here!’