Have you been missing out on much of the 2014 MLB season? Don’t worry, so have I. Being a Cubs fan in Missouri makes it pretty hard to catch up on them, although this year hasn’t been all that stellar. But if you just take a quick glance at the standings in the MLB, you’ll see that there are many great headlines going on around baseball. It’s been hard to keep up with everything since we’ve just gone through the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, and now the World Cup, but don’t worry everyone; I’m here to get you all caught up.
Lets stay in the same division the Cubs are in, the NL Central, and take a look at the biggest surprise team of the season so far: the Milwaukee Brewers. When the Brewers were leading the division after April, everyone just took it as them having a fast start. That wasn’t the case, however, as the Brew crew currently holds the largest division lead right now at 5 ½ games over the St. Louis Cardinals. There weren’t many expectations for the Brewers this season, as most of the attention was paid to the returning Ryan Braun and how he would play after he was suspended for the final 50 games last season for steroid use. Braun has responded to the critics, batting .249 with 11 home runs and a team high 49 RBI’s, which could land him in Minnesota for the All-Star game in two weeks. The biggest surprise is catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who leads the team in batting average at .331. His 43 RBI’s have also helped contribute to the fifth most productive offense in baseball. Combine that with 27 saves from Francisco Rodriguez, and this Brewers club seems poised to be playing in October.
The NL East is also a very intriguing division, with the Atlanta Braves holding a slim ½ game lead over the Washington Nationals. The Braves look to make it back to the playoffs after losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season in the divisional round last year, while the Nationals look to re-bound from a 2013 campaign that had people projecting a World Series appearance. After winning the division two seasons ago, the Nationals had a tough 2013, but seem to be right on track this season, as them and the Braves have battled over the division lead all season. Both teams better hope to win their division, as the Wild Card race is also very tight.
I mentioned the Dodgers. They’re one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, cutting down a 9 ½ game division lead that the San Francisco Giants had three weeks ago to just a ½ game deficit. This has been sparked by Clayton Kershaw, who has not allowed a run in 28 straight innings on the mound for LA. He also threw a no-hitter against Colorado during that stretch. Kershaw is pitching at an unreal rate right now, and it appears he is on his way to a third Cy Young in four years. Also, Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett have had fantastic seasons pitching for the Dodgers, helping them get back in the race. The team they’re chasing, the Giants, have struggles as of late after getting off to a hot start. Michael Morse has 13 home runs and 44 RBI’s to lead the Giants, who look to fight off their long time rival Dodgers in the NL West.
To the AL now, and the AL Central has been one big mess all year. The Detroit Tigers are currently the hottest team in baseball, winning 10 of their last 12 games to re-gain a 4 ½ game lead in the division. This was after the Kansas City Royals went on a ten game winning streak in mid-June to snag the division lead away from the Tigers. The Royals have slipped up since then, going just 5-8 since their winning streak. The Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox have both been on and off all season, so it’ll be interesting to see if either of those teams can make a big push here in July. Right now, it may seem the Tigers are pulling away, but don’t sleep on any of the teams in this division. All five teams are within ten games of each other, and with the way the Indians and White Sox have been able to get hot at times, really anyone can potentially win this division.
Now, the AL East is a very intriguing division. The defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox currently have more losses then the Cubs, but aren’t in last place in their division. That distinction goes to the Tampa Bay Rays, who was one of the World Series favorites this year. The leaders of the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays, were picked to finish dead last in this division, yet they hold a one game lead over the Baltimore Orioles. The New York Yankees are sitting in third place, just 4 ½ games back of the Blue Jays. The Yankees have stayed in it behind the incredible pitching of Masahiro Tanaka, who has burst on to the scene after signing from Japan last year. But let’s talk about the Blue Jays. They’ve been leading the AL East since near the end of May and have the third best offense in baseball. Edwin Encarnacion leads the team in home runs (26), RBI’s (69), runs (56), and OPS (.973). Meanwhile, Mark Buehrle is having a comeback season for the ages, posting a 10-5 record with a 2.50 ERA, fourth in the AL. He started 9-1 on the season and helped put Toronto in the position they are currently. It’ll be a challenge for the Blue Jays to hold their division lead, though, as the AL East is one of the toughest divisions in baseball.
Finally, and probably the best division in baseball, is the AL West. The best team in baseball, the Oakland Athletics, currently leads the division, but they are not sitting easy. Breathing down their necks are two teams: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (can they just please drop the “Los Angeles” part. They’re not even in LA), and the Seattle Mariners. These are three of the top seven teams in baseball currently, as all three of them are at least nine games over .500. All three teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today, which shows just how competitive this division has become. Robinson Cano, who has breathed new life in to the franchise after the departure of Ichiro Suzuki, has lead the Mariners with a .323 batting average and 46 runs scored. The Angels have stud center fielder Mike Trout, who appears to be well on his way to his first of probably many MVP awards. And then there’s the Athletics, who just quietly keep on winning baseball games. Yoenis Cespedes is really coming in to his own this year, as he has 14 home runs and 55 RBI’s to go along with a cannon of an arm from left field. These next three months will be very compelling baseball out west, with every game they play that much more meaningful.
So, are you ready for the final three months of the season now? I hope you are. There are going to be a lot of fun division and wild card races to watch, as it feels like for the first time in a while there are no clear-cut favorites to win their divisions. So buckle up, everybody. It’s going to be a pretty crazy ride.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the other blogs I’ve posted, and stay tuned as I go more in-depth on all the things going on in the sports world. This is Game of Sports.