We made it! The final week of the MLB season. I know I have been a little quiet lately, but that certainly doesn't mean the MLB has been. Let's take a look at some of the things that could really shape the end of this season over the next week.
1. The AL West Race
Nearly every division has established which of their teams will be headed to the playoffs, if not having already named an outright winner. The one to watch, however, is the AL West. Not only are there big implications here for the division, but the wild card as well. The Texas Rangers do hold a lead, but it's a mere 2.5 game lead against the Houston Astros. Not to be counted out, the Los Angeles Angels are 3 games back after an impressive 8 - 2 surge over their last ten games and play the Rangers in the last three games of the week. If both teams come in to Friday with the standings similar to now, that series could become the decider of the division.
2. The New York Yankees Youth Movement
While the Yankees still have an outside chance at the AL East (4 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays), my confidence level is pretty low. Therefore, it's up to the Yankees to fend off the seemingly never ending list of wild card contenders. Unfortunately, their 4.5 game lead in the wild card race doesn't seem as secure as the Blue Jays division lead. A major reason? Injuries.
The Yankees continue to get by thanks to youngsters stepping in and making a dramatic impact. Greg Bird has delivered 10 Home Runs and 29 RBI's while covering for Mark Teixeira, including a few game winning hits. Luis Severino has leapt into the rotation, going 5 - 3 while pitching to a 2.77 ERA and racking up 50 k's in 55 innings. The cast continues with Dustin Ackley, Jose Pirela, Rob Refsnyder, and Adam Warren making substantial contributions. If they can keep it up this week, look for them to stave off the playoff-snubbed Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, two bitter rivals.
3. The Washington Nationals
Yes, their playoff hopes are over. One of the best pitching staffs (on paper anyways) with a record breaking star outfielder (and my preseason choice to win the World Series) weren't quite strong enough this year. But, that doesn't mean they aren't going to be fun to watch this week. Heck, Jonathon Papelbon made that clear yesterday when he got into an altercation with Bryce Harper, resulting in a season ending suspension.
A number of key players on this team have expiring contracts, and hopefully management is learning team chemistry has a bit to do with winning. Keep your eye on how members of the roster mesh with each other and who could be on their way out, as well as who the new team closer will be.
4. The Eric And Parker Talk About Things And Stuff Podcast
I know, a little self branding here and it doesn't entirely deal with this week, but deal with it. I wrote it, so I can change the rules if I want to. Anyways, Parker and I have some fun news: starting next week, we're meshing Two Strikes and You're Out with the EAPTATAS podcast to create full coverage of the MLB Playoffs. For each round, we will host an (extremely) biased guest to run down his team's matchup, as well as all the matchups of that round. If something special comes up in between rounds, look for a new blog post here. This should be really cool and a lot of fun to do/listen to, so I hope you enjoy it.
As the season comes to an end, thanks for reading! The blog saw some great readership numbers and I am truly grateful for that. There will be more posts throughout the playoffs and a little into the offseason, but it feels like an appropriate time for this message. I hope you enjoyed it and look out for much more!