1. The Shrinking Lead, Part 1: On September 10, the Phillies were six games back in the division and just focused on the wild card. Now, they have closed the gap to only 1.5 games thanks to a six game winning streak along with the Mets’ five game losing streak. Now the Phillies have a realistic shot of winning the division. They beat the Cardinals in 14 innings on Tuesday. In a game that saw 19 combined pitchers but only 19 combined hits, the Phillies won 7-4. They scored three 14th-inning runs off Mike Maroth, who has an 11.25 ERA since joining the Cardinals. The Mets lost 9-8 to Washington, their second straight loss against the pitiful Nationals. Because their schedule for the rest of the year includes only Washington and Florida, the Mets still are the likely division champs. However, it would no longer be surprising if the Phillies overtook New York and won the division.
2. The Shrinking Lead, Part 2: Everyone thought the Red Sox had the division wrapped up months ago. But the Yankees, who were down 5.5 games only four days ago, have cut that gap to 2.5. They have won three in a row while the Red Sox have dropped their last three. The Yankees dominated the Orioles 12-0 on Tuesday, with Mike Mussina going for seven shutout innings. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano had three hits each in the rout, while Doug Mientkiewicz drove in four runs. The Red Sox, meanwhile, were topped for the second straight day by the Blue Jays, this time by a score of 4-3. AJ Burnett pitched brilliantly, going 8.2 innings with three runs and 11 strikeouts. Eric Gagne blew a save in eighth inning, ruining Jon Lester’s solid start. The Yankees have the schedule advantage compared with the Red Sox, as they face Tampa and Baltimore their last two series as opposed to Minnesota and Oakland. If New York wins the division, it will be either one of the greatest comebacks or collapses in league history, depending on your perspective. It really wouldn’t make a difference when it comes to playoff seeding, though, as the Red Sox would still likely win the wild card.
3. The Nonexistent Lead: Once again, the Brewers and Cubs find themselves tied for the NL Central lead. Milwaukee has won four straight to regain their share of the lead. The two teams together are the only division leader in baseball with less than 83 wins, with only 78 and 79, respectively. That still doesn’t make their race any less heated, as it has been back and forth for the last few weeks. The Brewers flattened the Astros 9-1, though ace Ben Sheets is out for an uncertain amount of time with a leg injury. the powerful Brewers had four homeruns. The Cubs lost 5-2, as ace Carlos Zambrano had his sixth loss in his last eight starts. Chicago does have the edge in the race as they only play terrible teams the remainder of the season, while the Brewers play Atlanta and San Diego.
Player of the Day: John Lackey, Angels: 8 innings, 1 run, 10 K’s in a 2-1 win over Tampa. Lackey is yet another AL Cy Young candidate, with a 17-9 record and 3.13 ERA.