1. Lock it Up, Part 1: The Indians, who have the best record in baseball by a half-game, became one of the first two teams to clinch their division on Sunday. They beat the A’s 6-2, keeping their 7.5 game lead in the division with only seven games left to play. Grady Sizemore went 4-4 and Jake Westbrook had nine strikeouts as the Indians rolled once again. The Indians are one of three teams in baseball to rank in the top ten in runs scored and ERA–Boston and Atlanta are the others. This is the balance that has led the team to such success this season. Though slugger Travis Hafner has had a down year, Victor Martinez has established himself as perhaps the game’s best-hitting catcher. The rotation, with aces Fausto Carmona and CC Sabathia in addition to the resurgent Westbrook, rivals that of Los Angeles and Boston. Though the other AL playoff teams have received more attention, the Indians will be just as much of a force in the playoffs.
2. Lock it Up, Part 2: On the same day the Indians clinched the AL Central, the Angels locked up the AL West with their 92nd win. Fittingly, ace John Lackey picked up the win. It was the 18th victory of the year for Lackey, as he struck out 7 and allowed 2 runs in 7 innings. He is part of an Angels’ rotation that is just as balanced as the Indians’. With Kelvim Escobar and Jered Weaver joining Lackey, along with a superb bullpen, the Angels have one of the league’s best overall pitching staffs. They have had the lead in their division basically from the start of the season, holding off Seattle despite numerous charges by the pesky Mariners. Their division-clinching win on Sunday was in fact over the Mariners, who have put together a great season but are no match for Los Angeles. The Angels will now be vying for the top overall seed in the American League playoffs, though it doesn’t really matter considering every AL playoff team is a force to be reckoned with.
3. It’s (Almost) Over: Barring a spectacular collapse, the Cubs will be playoff-bound for the first time since 2003. They swept the Pirates over the weekend while the Brewers struggled with the Braves. This gave Chicago a 3.5 game lead, which will likely be impossible to pass for the near-cinderella Brewers. The Cubs are the only team even nearly deserving of a playoff spot from the NL Central. Their `big three’ in the lineup is one of the best in the NL with Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano. More impressive is their pitching, which has five solid starters. Though many will likely write off the Cubs once they reach the playoffs, they actually have the tools to win the pennant. In a year where no team is even close to dominant in the NL, the Cubs could surprise everyone.
Player of the Day: Mike Mussina, Yankees: 7 innings, 3 runs, 5 strikeouts in a 7-5 win over Toronto. Mussina, who won his 250th career game, is 3-0 since returning to the rotation after temporary demotion. The Yanks are now 1.5 games back of Boston, though it doesn’t really matter who wins the division as both will make the playoffs.