Written By LaShawn Encarnacion aka The Dark Knight of Sports:
In the last several weeks since the All-Star Break for that matter, the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, two franchises who were the most “made fun of” teams in all of baseball, have made great strides and are right in the thick of the playoff talks this year. So lets dive into whose hot and whose not as August is quickly becoming September, the last month in the regular season.
New York Mets:
Since the 2000 season, the Mets have been that level of obscurity in the National League East. For the first part of the decade, dead last and in more recent times, almost but not quite. But this year has become a difference maker. The starting rotation is strong, goes six-deep if necessary and the offense is good enough, especially with the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline and the return of superstar David Wright over the last week. The Mets new manager Terry Collins has brought in the winning formula it seems.
“You’ve got to win games you’re supposed to win, there’s no question about it,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Right now, we’ll take it.”
With a record of 70-56, it holds the top spot in the National League East, six-and-a-half games ahead of the Washington Nationals, who seem to be losing their wits with their collapse. While the Mets have been known for their own “EPIC” collapses, this team of 2015 seems to be as solid, if not more than the team that was in the playoffs in the 2000 season. Which means not just one team from NYC will be in if things play out.
Toronto Blue Jays:
Since the back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993, the Toronto Blue Jays have been far in the rear view mirror as it comes to playoff talks in late August into September. But 2015 is the season of the resurrection of the Blue Jays to dominance. Their 71-55 record leads the American League East, two games ahead of the New York Yankees who hold the top Wild Card spot, four game lead in the Wild Card race. This may be a tight race, but the Blue Jays offense is filled with youth and power. From Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista to recently acquired Troy Tulowitzki and underrated Justin Smoak. The offense top to bottom is serious and can scare the deepest of rotations.
The difference maker for this team was the acquisitions of Tulowitzki and pitcher David Price. The entire turnaround to dominance can be traced to those two moves and the biggest rise as well. Beware the Blue Jays in September.
If there was ever a “surprise team” this year in baseball it is the new residents of the American League West, the Houston Astros. The Astros in their first year in the AL have made some serious noise with their “small ball” offense and solid defense.
Already eclipsing their last season’s record, now at 71-57, they lead the American League West, five-and-a-half games ahead of the second place Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, the heavily favorites L.A. Angels are third in the division. After clinching the series victory over the New York Yankees, manager A.J. Hinch reflects on how the season on the road has been going.
“We haven’t won one on the road in a while, and it obviously feels good,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I love the way we swung the bats today. I thought we pitched pretty well. I think it shows when we put things together, we can win on the road. We’ve done it before, but to do it against this team is a nice start to this road trip.”
With timely hitting by Evan Gattis and Jose Altuve continuing to be a terror on the base paths, look for the Astros to go no where but to the playoffs.
Saved the best and most surprising for last. The Chicago Cubs may not be atop of their division like those mentioned before, but that does not mean they are not dominating their wild card spot that they currently hold.
At 73-52 the Cubs have a six-and-a-half lead over the next team who can compete for the second wild card slot, the San Francisco Giants who are 10 games behind.
The additions of the youth in the batting order has been the difference maker for the Cubbies. Kris Bryant (.256 batting average with 20 home runs, 77 RBI and 12 steals) has been as advertised, clearly making his candidacy for NL Rookie of the Year a solid one. Catcher Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell solidify the offense and the defense in the field. Pitching staff has experienced arms like Jon Lester and Tommy Hunter who can mentor the young guns like Jake Arrieta, Dan Haren and others to the “ins and outs” of baseball life.
The Cubs have a firm grasp of that second wild card spot and if the trend continues the two wild card spots will come out of the National League Central. One by the always contending Pittsburgh Pirates. But the other, by the “New Kids on the Block” to the baseball playoffs in a long while, the Chicago Cubs.
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