While most are focused on football this weekend, the race for the baseball playoff spots heated up. Teams losing Friday and Saturday included the Rangers (to let the A’s move into first in the AL West), the Rays (to leave six teams within 3 1/2 games of the two wild card spots) and the Pirates (to let the Cardinals move into first in the NL Central and the Reds get within a game of the Pirates.
The Reds moved to within 1 1/2 games of the NL Central lead the hard way, beating the red-hot Dodgers and even beating Yasiel Puig’s arm with the fastest man in baseball, Billy Hamilton. Hamilton, who stole 155 bases in the minors last year, made it four of four stealing after pinch-running. For the second straight game he stole without a throw, and for the third time in four games he scored when he easily beat Puig’s rocket throw home in the 10th inning to pull off a 10-inning win. It will get even tougher for the Reds Sunday when the Reds go up against Clayton Kershaw, the No. 2 ranked pitcher at www.valueaddbaseball.com and the heavy favorite to win the Cy Young award.
With Texas and Tampa both losing two more games Friday and Saturday, a total of six teams are now within 3 1/2 games of claiming either of the two AL wildcard spots. That includes even the Kansas City Royals, who beat Justin Verlander (who has slipped out of the top quarter of pitchers as the 55th most valuable pitcher at www.valueaddbaseball.com). The Yankees have not been able to beat the Red Sox to take advantage, but the Indians and Orioles have won three and four, respectively, to pull within a game. Two of those six teams will play in the one-game playoff unless the A’s fall below the Rangers and take one of the spots.
The Rangers gave up four unearned runs to lose again Saturday, while the A’s took advantage of the last-place Astros to move from second place to 1 1/2 games ahead in the AL West race.