Down to two weeks left in the 2012 regular season, it's officially the home stretch for teams still harboring playoff aspirations. I'm started to get excited like a Kentucky Derby announcer in the last quarter mile. Coming around the turn, the Orioles are neck and neck with the Yankees, galloping towards the crown.
The speedy Tampa Bay Rays continue to lurk behind waiting to make their move. And don't look now, but here comes the Detroit Tigers, gaining ground on the White Sox. The Phillies have turned on the speed, Charlie Manuel is whipping them for the final push but they might have too much ground to make up. The A's continue their steady pace towards the finish line. The Dodgers have pulled up lame. The Nationals are coasting into an easy win, except oh no, what has happened, the jockey has decided to break one of their legs. What could he be thinking? And it's a tough sight in the back of the pack, where the crew is bringing out a white sheet to cover up the Pirates so they can be put down.
The race continued to be magic for the Orioles, who pulled out their 26th one run victory of the season, beating the Rays 3-2 on Nate McLouth's walk-off single. The win kept the Orioles in a tie for first in the AL East and pushed the Rays 3 games back. Play of the game went to Manny Machado, pulling the old full-speed-hidden-ball-trick on Rich Thompson, faking the throw to first, then spinning and catching Thompson off third and in a run down. The Orioles scored two in the first, on singles from Matt Wieters and Wilson Betemit, but didn't score again until McLouth's 9th inning heroics.
The Yankees kept pace in Boston, beating the Red Sox 5-4, powered by Curtis Granderson's 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 run night. This game featured a lot of early exits. Derek Jeter left after grounding out in the 8th, due to what was described as both a bone bruise and sprained ankle. Jeter said after the game he wanted to come out for the 9th and expected to play on Thursday. On the Red Sox side, Dustin Pedroia left the game and the stadium after being informed that his wife was in labor. Bobby Valentine and Cody Ross also took an early trip to the showers, ejected after heated arguments following home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez's called third strike to end the 8th inning.
The Tigers moved to within a game of the White Sox in the AL Central, beating them 8-6 on the night. The Tigers' Max Scherzer pitched well, 6 IP, 7 K, 1 ER, only to see the bullpen almost choke up the lead, allowing an 8-1 lead to become an 8-5 lead in the 8th inning. Kevin Youkilis hit his second home run of the game in that 8th inning rally that ultimately came up short.
The Athletics built more ground in their surprising wildcard campaign, beating the Angels 4-1 in Anaheim thanks to A.J. Griffin's 8 IP, 0 ER, 6 K night. The A's continued to love their offseason import of Yoenis Cespedes, who hit his 18th homer of the season off Ervin Santana in the 6th inning.
The streaking Phillies moved over .500, with their 7th win in a row, 3-1 over the Marlins. Cliff Lee threw 7 shutout innings with 6 Ks and Jimmy Rollins hit a two run homer in the 7th that proved to be enough for the victory. A scorching September has changed the complexion of a once lost season for the Phillies, who are now only 3 games back in the chase of the Cardinals for the second wildcard.
Not to be outdone, the Brewers beat the Braves, 8-2 to also move above .500 at 72-71. Rickie Weeks three run shot in the 6th proved to be enough to beat the Braves. First baseman Travis Ishikawa chipped in the insurance with a three run double to cap his 2 for 4 day.
The Padres helped out both teams by beating the Cardinals, current leader of the second wild card, 3-2, on Clayton Richards 7 IP, 2 ER, 5 K night. The Cards picked up a hit in the 9th to make the inning interesting, but Luke Gregerson closed the door for his 7th save.
Wednesday night also marked the first start John Lannan made in place of a shutdown Stephen Strasburg. Lannan pitched well, throwing 5.2 innings of 0 ER, 2 K ball, and the Nationals figure to cruise to the NL’s best record. The issue is the playoffs though and the Nationals completely inept handling of the whole Strasburg situation. I’ve railed against the Nationals and Mike Rizzo in this space in the past, but in case my silly rambling didn’t convince you, check out Rany Jazayerli’s well researched and convincing evisceration of the decision here.
Written by Ryan Coombs exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. Follow Ryan on Twitter @RMCoombs.
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