The Full Count: The real magic number is 1.5


1. One and a Half Games: Half of the MLB division leaders have a slim 1.5 games lead right now. The Cubs, Mets, and Red Sox are all holding on by this narrow margin. The Yankees and Red Sox didn’t play Thursday, but some of the other teams did. The Brewers lost a half-game to the Cubs as they fell 3-1 to Atlanta. Braves starter Jeff Bennett won in his first major league appearance since 2004. The Braves are virtually out of the playoff race, though with five straight wins they are ending their season on a good note. The NL East is between the Mets and Phillies. The Mets lost again, in a 10-inning contest with the Marlins. They had a three-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but Jorge Sosa blew the save. The Marlins piled up 21 hits, and 8 players in their lineup had at least two hits. The Phillies pulled out another victory, this one coming 7-6 over the Nationals. Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth both homered for Philadelphia, who is 10-3 since September 8. These division races, which all seemed over at one point this year, are providing for an exciting end to the season.

2. Watch Out in `08: The Rockies, an underappreciated surprise story this season, will be a dark horse contender next year if they can get some pitching. They are 81-72 and in third place after sweeping the Dodgers in a four game series, knocking LA out of the playoff picture. Their offense has been second in the NL only to the Phillies, with nearly 800 runs. Matt Holliday is showing he can be a franchise player with a .339 average, 36 homers, and 131 RBIs. He has been unstoppable in the month of September, with 12 homers and 26 RBIs. 11 of those homers have come in the last 12 games, with the Rockies winning 8 of them. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would be an easy choice for Rookie of the Year if Ryan Braun wasn’t playing so well. Tulowitzki has 22 homers and 90 RBIs, and has hit around .290. That dynamic duo along with Brad Hawpe (101 RBIs), Garrett Atkins (23-103), and Todd Helton provide for an incredibly deep offense that will be a force for years to come.

3. The New Best Team: It’s official: the Red Sox no longer have the league’s best record. That honor now goes to the Angels, who have quietly been crushing every team in their path this month. The 91-62 Angels have gone 17-8 since August 26, and will become the first team to clinch their division with one more win. They beat the second-place Mariners 9-5 on Thursday as superstar Vlad Guerrero hit his 26th homerun of the season. Guerrero also has a .326 average and 122 RBIs, good enough to place him third in the AL MVP voting behind A-Rod and Magglio Ordonez. The Angels, who are rolling into the postseason with momentum, will be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.

Player of the Day: JR Towles, Astros: 4-4, 3 runs, HR (1st career), 8 RBI in an 18-1 win over the Cardinals. Playing in only his sixth career game, Towles set a Houston record for single-game RBIs.

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