Biggest Winners and Losers of MLB Playoff Races, Week 23
Teams that find themselves in the thick of MLB playoff races at this point in the season can't help but feel pressure—pressure to win.
When the outcome of one game can ultimately determine whether a team is playing meaningful baseball in October or watching it on television, losing simply isn't an option.
But just as there's no crying in baseball, there's no tying either—there is always a winner and a loser.
Let's take a look at the playoff race's biggest winners and losers from the past week of action.
Losers: New York Yankees
Weekly Record: 4-3
The brooms were out at Yankee Stadium last week, though much to the dismay of the bleacher creatures, the Yankees weren't always the ones cleaning up.
A three-game sweep of the White Sox sent the Yankees into a must-win, four-game showdown with the hated Red Sox on a high note. That high didn't last long, as the Yankees blew leads in the first two games of the series and found themselves down 3 games to none heading into Sunday.
Mariano Rivera blew his second save of the series, but the Yankees avoided the sweep thanks to a wild pitch by Brandon Workman that allowed Ichiro Suzuki to score the game-winning run, giving New York a winning record for the week.
But the Yankees lost ground to Boston in the AL East and dropped to fifth place in the AL wild-card race, as Cleveland jumped a half-game ahead of them, into a tie with Baltimore, the team the Yankees open a four-game series against on Monday.
|Brett Gardner||.346||1.029||5 (0)||8||8||1|
|Robinson Cano||.387||1.000||5 (1)||8||4||0|
Winners: Boston Red Sox
Weekly Record: 5-2
All the Red Sox need to do down the stretch is to keep winning and stay healthy.
They accomplished one of the two last week, taking two-of-three from Detroit and three-of-four from the Yankees, giving the team a 7.5-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL East and closing in on the team's first AL East crown since 2007—the last time that Boston won the World Series.
The news that center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury will be out indefinitely with a fractured foot stings, but Boston's offense is so potent that it won't miss a beat without baseball's stolen base leader atop the lineup.
|Mike Napoli||.476||1.720||6 (4)||9||7||0|
|Will Middlebrooks||.464||1.429||5 (4)||9||8||1|
Potential Huge Loser: Jacoby Ellsbury
Less than two months away from hitting the open market, Jacoby Ellsbury's earning power may have taken a massive hit last week with the news that Boston's center fielder has a fractured right foot.
While manager John Farrell insists that his leadoff hitter will return before the regular season comes to an end, you'd have to imagine that the Red Sox would certainly err on the side of caution with Ellsbury, who has now suffered a major injury in three of the last four seasons.
Ellsbury's agent, Scott Boras, will point to the fluke nature of his client's injuries, while teams will point to the number of games that he's missed over the past four years, a battle that could lead to contentious proceedings when it comes to finding Ellsbury a new home.
Granted, this injury isn't anywhere near as severe as those that preceded it, but it's an injury nonetheless, one that will prove to be costly in terms of how much money—and how many years—they are willing to offer the soon-to-be 30-year-old speedster this coming winter.
Winners: St. Louis Cardinals
Weekly Record: 4-3
A 4-3 record might not seem like much to celebrate, but it is in St. Louis.
The Cardinals, who trailed Pittsburgh for the NL Central lead by a game last Monday, ended the week with a three-game sweep of the Pirates and a 1.5 game lead over the Bucs for the division.
St. Louis has one of the easier schedules down the stretch, with no playoff teams left to play and only three games against a team above .500—the Nationals—who the Cardinals have already swept once already this season.
|Matt Carpenter||.379||1.110||6 (0)||2||10||1|
Losers: Pittsburgh Pirates
Weekly Record: 2-4
While the Pirates are guaranteed to finish the season no worse than a .500 team, Pittsburgh watched its lead in the NL Central disappear and the chances of the team winning its first division crown since 1992 all but disappear.
Francisco Liriano delivered one of his worst performances of the season, getting shelled for seven earned runs in three innings by the Cardinals, the latest debacle by a pitching staff that let the team down last week, allowing 35 runs over their last four games.
Pittsburgh doesn't meet St. Louis again this season, and with three games against Texas and six against Cincinnati left on the schedule, the Pirates could find themselves with nothing more than the second wild-card spot in the National League when the season comes to an end.
|Andrew McCutchen||.450||1.427||4 (2)||2||5||0|
Winners: Cleveland Indians
Weekly Record: 4-2
While some have been waiting for Cleveland to collapse down the stretch, the Indians simply refuse to go away, taking two-out-of-three from both the Orioles and the Mets last week to gain three games on Detroit in the AL Central race and move ahead of New York in the AL wild-card race, now sitting two games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild-card berth.
With only six of the team's remaining 20 games coming against a team with a winning record—Kansas City—the Indians are in excellent shape to make a strong push for the team's first playoff appearance since 2007.
|Yan Gomes||.538||1.394||3 (0)||4||4||0|
|Ryan Raburn||.400||1.300||2 (0)||5||0||0|
Losers: Detroit Tigers
Weekly Record: 2-4
It was a wild week for the Tigers, who lost by 16 runs to Boston on Wednesday, beat Kansas City by 14 runs on Friday and wakes up this morning in a closer race for the AL Central than anyone expected they'd be in.
Both Cleveland and Kansas City made up ground on Detroit, which saw Miguel Cabrera miss time with his abdominal injury and look nothing like the best hitter in baseball when he did play. The Tigers got almost no production from Cabrera, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez last week, who hit a combined .177 (11-for-62) with two doubles, four RBI and five runs scored.
With 12 of the team's 19 remaining games coming against divisional opponents—and Kansas City the only team with a winning record that is left on their schedule—the Tigers should be able to stop the bleeding and hold onto their dwindling lead in the division for the team's third straight AL Central crown.
|Brett Gardner||.379||1.144||7 (0)||9||9||1|
|Eduardo Nunez||.438||.500||5 (0)||3||4||0|