The Hanging Curve – Baseball Opinion Blog with MLB Analysis that won’t Bend or Break

Preseason is Upon Us

Today, MLB preseason kicked off, with everyone except the Padres and the Mariners playing their first games.  Hope abounds throughout the league, with every team believing that the carte blanche of the new season brings them playoff hopes.

The Pirates trotted out their predicted starting lineup minus Andy LaRoche, who had some back spasms, against the defending champion Phillies.  The starters came out plenty early, and every Pirate pitcher tossed one inning.  The second base position was strong:  Freddy Sanchez went 2-2 while prospect Shelby Ford blasted a 3-run home run which helped solidify the win.

The Phillies couldn’t muster much against the Pirates pitching, although closer Matt Capps struggled uncharacteristically through the second inning by walking the bases loaded with 12 straight balls.  Donald Veal, a Rule-5 pickup this offseason, picked up the win as the Pirates came through with the 8-2 win.  They face off with the Red Sox tomorrow.

Playoffs Begin to Crystalize

With the season winding down, most MLB clubs are fielding a squad fit for AAA ball, while a few of the best teams and some of the more deluded are still hanging on to the hope of making the playoffs.  The Angels clinched their division long ago, and have proceeded to the goal of helping “K-Rod” smash the single-season saves record.

The Red Sox last night clinched a playoff birth, and being three games behind the Rays wiith five to go have only an outside chance of taking the division.  Props for the Rays for hanging on to the division for a good portion of the season and finishing strong.  At any rate, the AL Wildcard race is over.

The AL Central race is still very hot.  The White Sox are in the lead, but the Twins are right behind them.  Unfortunately for the Twins, they are two games behind in the loss column, so they almost need to win out to win the division.

The NL is much less decided at this point.  The Cubs have clinched the “weak” (according to the pundits) Central division, but everything else is still up in the air.  The Phillies are only 1.5 games ahead of the Mets, who are still dealing with the loss of Wagner (last night by chaining Santana to the mound as he K’d the Cubs to the tune of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”).  Out in the West, Manny being Manny has helped the Dodgers pull out to a three game lead on the Diamondbacks, who are doing their best job of emulating the rest of the worst division in baseball.

The NL Wildcard race is fun.  This is where most of the delusion comes in.  The Brewers, with flailing Ryan Braun, are only one game behind the first-place Mets, while the Astros still belive they can make up 4.5 on the Mets and 3.5 on the Brewers.  The Cardinals probably still think they are in the race.  If you listen to their announcers, they’ll tell you this is the best team baseball has ever seen:  they can even overcome mathematical elimination.