I know we’re just over the halfway point of the season, but the Wild Card races in both leagues are going to be bonkers. In the National League. The top Wild Card is jointly held by the Giants and Dodgers, who are tied for the NL West lead. Then…there’s the second spot. The Reds, Nationals, and Cardinals are all tied for that spot, but Washington is just half a game behind Atlanta for the NL East lead. The Pirates are also lurking, just a game and a half behind that trio for a return to the Postseason. Hell, even the Marlins are still kind of technically in the race, despite a 39-43 record – they’re only 4.5 games out of the playoffs. Over in the American League, the AL West duo of the Angels and Mariners possess each of the two Wild Card spots, but the Orioles and Royals are just 1.5 games back of Seattle, while the Yankees are two out. And don’t forget about the Blue Jays, who have a nearly identical record as the Mariners, but are currently leading the AL East. The Indians are also lurking, 4.5 games behind the Mariners. When it comes down to it, you could make the case that two-thirds of the league is still in the playoff hunt halfway through the season – I’m sure MLB is totally cool with that. It might be a bit of a different story on the trade market, though.
Game of the Day: Royals 5, Angels 4. It wasn’t really a great day for super close, intense baseball…so whatever, we’ll give this game the nod for Sunday. Kansas City chased an ineffective C.J. Wilson in the fourth with a four spot, and the Angels bullpen shocking held down the fort when he left. Erick Aybar tied the game up at four with a solo homer in the sixth off of Jeremy Guthrie, and this game became a battle of who would blink first. It wouldn’t be the Royals, whose bullpen threw 2 1/3 hitless innings. It would be the Angels, but don’t blame Jason Grilli, who allowed the winning run. In the bottom of the ninth, Grilli struck out Billy Butler to lead off the inning, and then hit Alex Gordon. Grilli got what would have been an inning ending double play ground ball hit to Aybar, but Howie Kendrick couldn’t handle the simple throw, moving Gordon to third and letting Sal Perez reach first safely. Omar Infante then singled in the winning run to hand Anaheim a painful defeat, and give the Royals an opportunistic win.
Pitching Lines of the Day: Homer Bailey flirted with a no-hitter in Cincinnati’s 4-0 win over the Giants, but settled for a three-hit complete game shutout, striking out seven and walking one. Tim Hudson pitched well in the loss for the Giants, allowing two runs on five hits in eight innings, striking out six without a walk. Felix Hernandez dominated the Indians in Seattle’s 3-0 win, giving up one hit in eight scoreless frames, walking three while striking out nine. Clayton Kershaw did Clayton Kershaw things in the Dodgers’ 6-0 win over the Cardinals, tossing seven shutout, five-hit innings, walking a pair and striking out 13. Jose Quintana pitched the White Sox to a 4-0 win in Toronto, giving up three hits in seven scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking two.
Hitting Lines of the Day: In Tampa Bay’s 12-7 slugfest win over the Orioles, Matt Joyce went 5/6 with a double, two homers, three runs, and four RBI, while Ben Zobrist went 3/6 with two doubles, a homer, two runs, and two RBI. Marlon Byrd went 2/4 with a pair of solo homers in Philly’s 3-2 loss to Atlanta. Lorenzo Cain played well for the Royals in their walk off win over the Angels, going 4/5 with three doubles and two RBI. In the Yankees’ 8-5 loss to the Red Sox, Carlos Beltran went 3/4 with a double and a solo homer. Pedro Alvaraz helped the Pirates top the Mets 5-2, going 2/4 with a double, a homer, and three RBI. In Texas’ 3-2 loss to Minnesota, Robinson Chirinos went 3/3 with a solo homer.
Other Games: The A’s topped the Marlins 4-3 to finish off a sweep in Miami. The Rockies pounded the Brewers 10-4. The Astros defeated the Tigers 6-4. The Padres topped the Diamondbacks 2-1.
Today’s Games: Chris Archer starts for the Rays in the Bronx. Ubaldo Jimenez and the Orioles host the Rangers. Scott Kazmir and Anibal Sanchez will duel in Detroit. Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals host the Rockies. Zack Wheeler and Alex Wood will square off in Atlanta. Jake Arrieta starts for the Cubs at Fenway. Garrett Richards gets the nod for the Angels in Chicago. Danny Duffy will take the hill for the Royals in Minnesota. Taijuan Walker makes his season debut for the Mariners in Houston against Collin McHugh and the Astros. Dan Haren and the Dodgers host Corey Kluber and the Indians. Mat Latos starts for the Reds in San Diego.
National TV: Rays-Yankees (7 PM, ESPN)
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.