OK, so we all know the three division leaders in the AL right now: the Yankees, White Sox, and Rangers. And of course, we all know that the Angels have a commanding lead on the first wild card slot. But when it comes to the second wild card slot….that's when things get interesting. The Orioles currently are in the lead for that playoff berth, but their lead is just a half game…and three teams are a half game out: the Tigers, Rays, and (shockingly) the A's. The Indians are a game out. The Red Sox and Blue Jays are just a game and a half out. So here we are, coming off of the All-Star Break…and just three American League teams aren't within spitting distance of the playoff race. Contrast that to the National League, where the current leader of the second wild card spot (the Pirates) has a two game lead on the second place team, with just three teams within three and a half games. Going up to the trade deadline, it's looking like all the fun is going to be in the American League in the coming weeks.
Game of the Day: Reds 4, Cardinals 2. Not many exciting games on the menu, so I went with this one between bitter NL Central rivals. Yadier Molina doubled in Lance Berkman in the second to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead, but the Reds took a 2-1 lead in the third thanks to a Joey Votto RBI double and a Brandon Phillips RBI single. Molina homered in the sixth to tie the game at two, and it stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth, when aging, broken down veteran Scott Rolen singled to drive in a pair off of Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs to make it 4-2. Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth to complete the Reds' sweep and give them sole possession of first place, pushing the Cardinals to four and a half out, and closer to fourth place than first place.
Pitching Lines of the Day: It wasn't the most dominating line of the day, but Ben Sheets returned to baseball with the Braves, throwing six shutout frames in their 6-1 win over the Mets, allowing two hits, one walk, and striking out five. Justin Verlander threw eight shutout innings for the Tigers in their 4-0 win in Baltimore, allowing three hits, two walks, and striking out eight. Rangers starter Matt Harrison threw a complete game shutout in a 4-0 win over Seattle, allowing five hits, four walks, and striking out three hitters. Matt Garza threw seven (valuable) shutout innings for the Cubs in their 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks, allowing five hits, and walking one while striking out seven. Cole Hamels allowed one run over eight innings in the Phillies' 5-1 win over the Rockies, giving up six hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts. Yovani Gallardo allowed one run on four hits over seven in Milwaukee's 4-1 win over Pittsburgh, striking out 14 without a walk.
Hitting Lines of the Day: Yoenis Cespedes of the A's went 4/5 with a three-run homer in their 9-4 win in Minnesota. His teammate Jonny Gomes went 3/4 with three runs, two RBI, and a homer. Yadier Molina ended up going 3/4 with a double, a homer, and two RBI. In the Yankees' 10-8 loss to the Angels, Eric Chavez went 3/3 with two runs and a homer. In that same game, Mark Trumbo of the Angels went 3/5 with two runs, and his 24th homer of the year.
Other Games: Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals shut out the Marlins 4-0. The Blue Jays shut out the Indians 3-0. The Red Sox beat the Rays 7-3. The White Sox nipped the Royals 2-1. The Giants edged the Astros 3-2. The Padres smashed the Dodgers 7-2.
Today's Games: All-Star Wade Miley starts for the Diamondbacks in Cincinnati. Edwin Jackson takes on Carlos Zambrano in game four of the series in Miami. Another All-Star, Lance Lynn, starts in Milwaukee against Michael Fiers. And…that's about it. Not many sexy matchups of the dozen games going today.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.