Sep 08

So, you want to start following the wild card race?

This pinch-hit post is dedicated to Mitch Webster.

The Dodgers now find themselves 5 1/2 games behind the Giants in the NL West race. With just 23 game left for the Dodgers and just five of them against the Giants, the Dodgers playoff fate is no longer in their own hands. In fact, even if the Dodgers went 23-0 the rest of the way, they might not even make the playoffs at all. The only teams in the NL that control their own destiny are the five current playoff spot holders: Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Atlanta, and St. Louis.

There are three main contenders for the second wild card spot, or, as I like to call it in shorthand, WC2: St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. The Cardinals have a 1 1/2 game lead over the Bucs and Dodgers.

We know how the Dodgers did last night, but how did Friday night go for the other teams?

Not well.

The Pirates played the games and played a game that might have been the worst of all possible worlds. The Cubs had lost 16 of their last 17 games on the road. And the Cubs parlayed SEVEN Pittsburgh errors in to a 12-2 win that was not as close as the score would indicate.

The sixth inning was one for the ages. Brett Jackson led off for the Cubs with an infield hit. A.J. Burnett then had a pitch get past Old Friend Rod Barajas to let Jackson advance. Darwin Barney hit a grounder to shortstop Josh Harrison who tried to throw out Jackson at third. Jackson looked to be out, but managed to slide around the tag attempt of Pedro Alvarez. Bucs manager Clint Hurdle argued with umpire Gary Darling and got himself ejected.

Then, it got worse. Travis Wood dropped a horrible sacrifice attempt in front of the plate. Barajas threw to second to start what should have been an easy double play. But, the throw was wide and everyone was safe. David DeJesus followed with a grounder to first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who threw home for what should have been a 3-2-3 DP. But, Barajas couldn’t handle the throw and a run scored. (Sanchez drew the error.) The Pirates made a double switch, removing Barajas. Reliever Justin Wilson came in and gave up a 2-run double to Luis Valbuena. It was not the Pirates’ night. They committed seven errors in a game for the first time since September 16, 1985. You can watch the errorfest here.

Over in St. Louis, the Cardinals and Brewers were delayed by rain for two and a half hours. The Cardinals led 2-0 after the first inning, but the Brewers tied the game with single runs in the fourth and seventh.  In the top of the eighth, the Brewers took a 4-2 lead and turned the lead over to Jim Henderson, one of their less shaky relievers. Henderson gave up a game-tying 2-run homer to Yadier Molina in the bottom of the 8th.

The game pressed on into the night. The Best Fans in Baseball became the sleepiest fans in baseball. And then they went home. Why? Because they were still playing at 2 am local time. And it was around 2 am, when Ryan Braun homered off of Lance Lynn in the 13th. (In the link you can listen to Brewers announcer Brian Anderson say, “Braun unbreaks the tie!” Hey, it was late.) The Brewers held on for a 5-4 win. The Cardinals had left the bases loaded in the 11th and left two runners on in the 12th.

Despite the disappointments that the Dodgers, Pirates, and Cardinals all had last night, they will all be back at it today. Because that’s the nature of baseball, there’s almost always a game the next day. Although after October 3, many teams won’t be able to say that.