There are, in my opinion, two teams in major league baseball that are just head-and-shoulders above the competition at this point. The Red Sox are 23 games over .500 and, with the acquisition of Eric Gagne and the return of Curt Schilling, that record will likely only improve over the final 50 or so games of the regular season. The Anaheim Angels (or LA Angels of Anaheim to the assholes who insist on getting it wrong) are the only team that is on that level, and is only 2.5 games behind Boston for the best record in baseball. While virtually no one has noticed, the Angels are becoming a perennial power in the west, and this could be the fourth time in six years they finish the season with over 90 wins (the other two were an 89 win season and a 77-85 tank job after the World Series season). With these teams representing the class of the AL, lets look at a few teams from the other side that are making a move toward the postseason.
Less than two weeks ago, following a 6-2 loss to the Cubs, the Arizona Diamondbacks were treading water at 50-48. Now they are surging, leading the NL West at 60-49. What has been the difference? Starting pitching. The D’Backs haven’t scored 10+ runs in any of the eleven games during this 10-1 tear, but they’ve gotten two shutout performances from Brandon Webb and another from Yusmeiro Petit. The D’Backs have six games remaining against the Giants, six against the Pirates, three against the Nationals and three against the Marlins. Look for the boys from the desert to represent the NL West in October.
Did someone mention the Cubs? That would be, the first place Cubs. Unbelievable when one considers how bad things were looking before (and during) the Barrett – Zambrano fight. But they’ve done it. And when you look at their lineup, it really was only a matter of time. Alfonso Soriano is streaky, but he’s a great player, as are Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. The team is loaded with talent, and if the pitching of Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Rich Hill and Zambrano can stay healthy, this is a dangerous post season contender. I mean really, do you think the Brewers aren’t going to fold like a map?
Speaking of maps, which way is Queens? I ask only because I’d like to find the Metropolitans, who are definitely the closest team in the NL to the class that the Angels and Red Sox are in. Consider that the left side of their infield is not only the best in the NL (which says a good amount), but probably the best in New York (which says a TON). Beyond Reyes and Wright, a lineup including Paul Lo Duca, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran can put up 15 runs in any game. Throw in a rotation of Tom Glavine, El Duque, John Maine, and Jorge Sosa, and the Mets are definitely the favorite in the NL.
In the Wild Card, who knows. I’d guess the Dodgers will take it, but the Braves, Brewers and Padres are in the mix as well. Personally, I’d like to see the 10,003 loss (or whatever) Phillies make it just to stick it to ESPN and everyone else who’s put together a montage of their century-long futility. Who knows, maybe we’ll have a Cubs-Phils NLCS, in a pennant battle between the true lovable losers.