“If things came easy, then everybody would be great at what they did.”
It’s been a fun August so far. Two teams headed for the playoffs. One has the best record in all of Minor League ball, and two guys chasing the home run crown. The other has MLB talent in prospects and recently optioned players, along with some talented pitchers. It’s nice to have games that matter in August; usually I’m checking out about now and looking forward to Phantoms Hockey.
So it’s all good, right?
Hang on. Both teams with the inside track on the playoffs have been doing their best to let it all go by the wayside. The top team in minor league baseball has now lost 4 in a row, 6 of their last 9, 9 of their last 13, and 11 games total since the calendar turned to August. Pretty middling stuff as their once enormous division lead has shrunk to 1.5 games–and while they still have a comfortable lead for a playoff spot, they stand to lose the home-field advantage that was once all-but assured.
The other team, which had led in the division standings as recently as late-July, and more recently had a comfortable 6.5-game lead for the wild card playoff spot, has lost 4 of their last 7, 9 of 16 and 11 total since August arrived. Their status with regard to the division lead is now a massive 5.0 game deficit with 12 games to go and the top team in the whole league on top. The once comfortable wild card lead has shrunk to 4.5 games–with an interesting caveat.
Here’s the thing:
Reading’s pursuant, the Yankee-affiliated Trenton Thunder, face the Fightins the last two games of the season, September 2nd and 3rd, at Arm and Hammer Park in Trenton, NJ. If the standing have them within two games either way, those last two games will decide the division winner. Yes, they’re still face each other in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs–unless the homeless Yard Goats go on some kind of tear–but home field will be impacted.
Lehigh Valley will face their pursuant, the Rochester Red Wings, over the final five games of the season, from September 1st through 5th, with the first two in Rochester and the last three at Coca Cola Park in Allentown. If the standings remain, or if Rochester continues to gain ground, then they’ll have an opportunity to oust the IronPigs from the playoffs altogether over those final five games.
It can’t just be easy, can it? The Columbus Clippers popped the champagne last night as they clinched the Western Division of the International League. They’ll get time to settle in and set their rotation in preparation for a first round match-up with a lowly Southern Division champion, where 12 games under .500 can win you the division.
For the fans, it’s not easy: When will the playoff games be? Will we even have them–even though we paid already? Will we be in any condition to be competitive after battling it out down the stretch? Will I need blood pressure medication for the first time in my life?
Who knows? However, maybe it is better. Teams get hot and cold all the time and for a variety of reasons–all it takes is for a hot stretch to start, for the Bash Brothers Hoskins and Cozens to start cranking homers, for the IronPigs bullpen to settle in and for veteran bats like Ruf and Asche to get hot. Today’s hot team in Columbus might get more than they bargained for if they take their first-round series with the miserable South for granted. Don’t look now, but Charlotte has won four in a row to rise to the top: Is that the start of their hot streak?
It might not be easy, but it will be fun. Strap in, and we’ll all ride along together!
See you at the parks,