Just four more Sunday afternoons of regular season baseball, so enjoy them while you can. Since the NFL gets underway today, look for the baseball games to be appearing on some public access channel, so your local TV station can give you four hours of pregame discussion about how the Houston Texans linebacking corps is doing. But I live in the L.A. area, so I don't believe the NFL truly exists.
The American League continues to bunch up as the Tigers try to hang on to their spot atop their division and atop the league for best record. The Tigers lost to Minnesota again last night and their lead over the Twins is just three games and the White Sox are just 3 1/2 games back. The Tigers and Twins conclude their four game series at 11:10 am PT (Jeremy Bonderman vs. Johan Santana). The White Sox are home to face Cleveland, who will no longer have Travis Hafner this year because of a hand injury, at 11:05 am PT (C.C. Sabathia vs. Javier Vazquez). The Tigers have a magic number of 18.
The Yankees now have a ten game lead over the Red Sox and a magic number of 12. The Yankees are in Baltimore at 10:35 am PT (Jaret Wright vs. Hayden Penn). Penn has an ERA of 108, which one hopes will go down after this game. If not, it's going to be a long day. The Yankees are just 1/2 game behind the Tigers for best record in the AL.
Oakland leads the Angels by 5 1/2 games over the Angels as both teams lost Saturday. Oakland plays at Tampa Bay at 10:15 am PT (Barry Zito vs. Jae Seo). The Angels are home to Toronto at 12:35 pm PT. That could be one of the best pitching matchups of the season as Roy Halladay faces Jered Weaver. The two pitchers have a combined record of 26-7.
The National League story is mostly the New York Mets and then a bunch of other teams splashing around in the shallow end of the pool. The Mets lead the Phillies by 16 1/2 games in the NL East and have a magic number of 5. The Mets could clinch a playoff spot as early as Tuesday.
The Mets host the West leaders, the Dodgers, at 10:10 am PT (Eric Stults vs. Steve Trachsel). The Dodgers lead the Padres by 1 1/2 games and have a magic number of 20.
Over in the Central, the Cardinals still lead, but the team in second changed. St. Louis leads by five games, but the closest pursuer is now Houston, with Cincinnati dropping to third. The Cardinals magic number is 17, but they do have seven games left against the Astros, four of them in Houston.
The Padres lead what is now a five-team scramble for the wild card. San Diego leads Philadelphia and San Francisco by 1 1/2 games, Florida by 2 1/2 games, and Houston by 3. Philadelphia plays at Florida at 10:05 am PT (Cole Hamels vs. Dontrelle Willis). Houston plays at Milwaukee at 11:05 am PT (Wandy Rodriguez vs. Dave Bush). San Diego is at San Francisco at 5:05 pm PT (Woody Williams vs. Matt Morris).
They will also play:
Chicago at Atlanta - If the Braves lose and the Mets win, the Braves streak of division titles officially ends.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati - Shane Douman makes his major league debut for one of these teams, but you'll have to figure out which one.
Kansas City at Boston - The Red Sox have lost as many consecutive games to the Royals as they have to the Yankees.
Washington at Colorado - The Rockies go for an 8-0 season sweep over the Nats
Texas at Seattle - These teams play again on the final weekend. Someone has to.