MLB Week in Review (August 31 – September 6)

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The Last month of the season is underway and the playoff races are in full swing with plenty of teams looking for their shot at the postseason. There are also a number of stories to watch for in this last month with so many things coming to a head at this point in the season. Whether it is the postseason battles in the NL Central or the AL West, the resurgence of the Yankees, or the pursuit of multiple records there is plenty to watch. One of the more intriguing storylines of this last month is the end of a legendary career in a position that has a short lifespan. Mariano Rivera will retire after this year and will leave behind a legend that not many will be able to match. The closer position is one of the most unique positions in baseball. Much like the designated hitter the closer does not appear all the time. Like the DH they come into a game to do one thing and one thing only. For the closer this is to earn the last outs of the game and keep the run differential in order. The closer is also a very different type of person as they are the exact opposite of most pitchers. They are extremely intense and most often work quickly in their wind up. Their focus has to be so pinpoint on one or two innings they pitch as nothing else can matter with one hit and one run completely changing everything. It is all about focusing on that one pitcher that is at the plate and striking him out to earn a save. This intensity comes out in the way they pitch as well with most closers identifying as a power pitcher with a deadly fastball that can blast by hitters. The closer is a different breed of player in the MLB and many times this type of player does not last very long. The intensity and the pitching style of these pitchers does not always last though as the career of a great closer can only last for a few years. Think of players like Eric Gagne or Billy Koch who dominated and then fell off of the map completely. It is a tough position that can be seen as a last resort for power pitchers without the stamina to be a starter or a mid reliever. When they eventually slow down they are thrown aside to bring in a new younger closer that can provide the innings teams need. So when you look at a player like Mariano Rivera you quickly realize how special he is. Rivera began his MLB career in 1995 when he would debut with the Yankees in May as a starting pitcher. Like many closers Rivera’s time as a starter was not too successful and he would quickly find himself in the minor leagues again. An arm surgery and poor performance would make the Yankees think about trading him and ending the legend before it started. Rivera’s velocity would begin to pick up after the surgery though, and so the Yankees decided they would give him one more chance as a relief pitcher. Rivera would make his way from setup man to closer and the rest is quite literally history. The MLB would see the start of one of the most dominant pitching careers in history as he would revolutionize pitching and the closer role. Rivera’s cut fastball was his out pitch and when it began to give everyone problems the cutter quickly became one of the most popular pitches in baseball. As he continued to dominate with his cutter he would move his way into the record books breaking the record for most saves with 649. The record added to 13 All-Star appearances, 5 World Series rings, 5 AL Relief Man of the Year Awards, and a World Series MVP award make Rivera the best closer in MLB history. He would do all of this with a silent confidence as he runs to the mound with a look on his face that he just knows he is going to win. Rivera will make his last appearances this year as he takes one more month, and maybe more, to show all fans what a the best closer to ever step on a mound can do.

 

Extra Innings:
(Thoughts on the past week in the MLB)

Bucs End the Losing
This year the Pittsburgh Pirates would see a record they wish they never had owned as they would win 81 games for the first time in 20 years meaning that the Pirates will have their first .500 or above season in two decades

The Ultimate DH
The man affectionately known as Big Papi, David Ortiz would show the MLB what DH in every sense of the word means this week when he earned his 2,000 hit with almost all exclusively coming as a Designated Hitter

Mr. Nice Guy
Clayton Kershaw may be on his way to a Cy Young Award this year and as the season closes out he gets closer to these types of awards including the Branch Rickey Award which he won this week for his performance on the field and his charitable work outside of baseball

 

MLB Standings

American League
Division Leaders:
1. Boston Red Sox (.599)
2. Detroit Tigers (.579)
3. Texas Rangers (.576)
Wild Card:
4. Oakland Athletics (.571)
5. Tampa Bay Rays (.554)
In the Hunt (GB):
6. New York Yankees (2.5)
7. Baltimore Orioles (3.0)
8. Cleveland Indians (3.0)
9. Kansas City Royals (4.5)
10. Los Angeles Angels (12.0)
11. Toronto Blue Jays (13.5)
12. Seattle Mariners (14.5)
13. Minnesota Twins (15.5)
14. Chicago White Sox (21.0)
Out of the Running:
15. Houston Astros (30.5)

 

National League
Division Leaders:
1. Atlanta Braves (.607)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (.583)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (.597)
Wild Card:
4. St. Louis Cardinals (.571)
5. Cincinnati Reds (.560)
In the Hunt (GB):
6. Arizona Diamondbacks (7.0)
7. Washington Nationals (7.0)
8. Colorado Rockies (13.0)
9. New York Mets (14.5)
10. Philadelphia Phillies (15.0)
11. San Diego Padres (16.0)
12. San Francisco Giants (16.5)
13. Chicago Cubs (18.5)
14. Milwaukee Brewers (18.5)
Out of the Running:
15. Miami Marlins (25.5)

 

Scores:
Pittsburgh Pirates 7 – 1 St. Louis Cardinals
– The Bucs are on their way to their first winning season in 20 years but there was more at stake in this game as they would beat the Cardinals taking another shot in what promises to be the best division race in the league this September

Oakland Athletics 4 – 2 Texas Rangers
– The A’s and the Rangers are in one of the best battles in the league and the A’s took another shot at the Rangers in this game taking the win and taking another step towards winning the division

New York Yankees 6 – 4 Chicago White Sox
– The Yankees would continue their climb back from the bottom of the league to a potential wild card team as they would face the struggling White Sox at just the right time and taking full advantage

Cincinnati Reds 6 – 2 St. Louis Cardinals
– The Reds and Cardinals may not be fighting each other for the division lead but both seem to be headed towards the postseason and the win from the Reds could be a step to winning home field advantage in the wild card game if the Cards cannot keep up

 

Next Week:
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Saturday September 7th; 7:15 pm ET)
– Games between the Bucs and the Cards are going to be the games to watch all month long as they continue one of the most intense division battles as they once again go at it to try to take the division and the postseason spot

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Monday September 9th; 10:10 pm ET)
– The D-Backs are trying to get back in the fight for the wild card with the NL Central taking both spots and the D-Backs sitting on the outside as they try to get the win against the Dodgers to reduce the difference

New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles (Wednesday September 11th; 7:05 pm ET)
– The Yankees are trying to climb back in an improbable comeback season as they sit only a few games outside of the wild card spot and will look to continue their climb past the Orioles with another win

Oakland Athletics vs. Texas Rangers (Friday September 13th; 8:05 pm ET)
– The NL Central is not the only battle that may come down to the wire as the A’s and Rangers continue their fight for the AL West with both teams looking to try to get the all important win to continue their run to the postseason

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