Biggest Winners and Losers of MLB Playoff Races, Week 24

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2013

Biggest Winners and Losers of MLB Playoff Races, Week 24

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    Playoff races around baseball heated up yet again last week, with two divisions undergoing changes at the top of the standings and multiple teams still jockeying for position in each league's respective wild-card race.

    Yet just when we thought we knew who the major players were going to be heading into the home stretch, the Washington Nationals seemingly emerged from nowhere and now pose a major threat to the three National League Central teams (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis) that were widely assumed to have three of the five playoff spots in the Senior Circuit all but locked up.

    In the American League, injuries continue to decimate an already thin New York lineup, leaving the Bronx Bombers mere inches from falling out of contention altogether.

    Let's take a look back at the biggest winners and losers from last week and what those results could mean for the rest of the season.

    *Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through games of Sept. 15.

Winners: Washington Nationals

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    Weekly Record: 6-1

    Don't look now, but here come the Washington Nationals. 

    Washington feasted on mediocre competition, outscoring New York and Philadelphia by a combined 35 runs (47 to 12). Eight games out of a wild-card berth when games ended on Sept. 8, the team now sits only 4.5 games out.

    Notable Performers

    PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    Ryan Zimmerman.3671.3587 (5)6101
    Wilson Ramos.290.9684 (4)1050
    PlayerERAWHIPIPHBBK
    Dan Haren0.000.336.0118
    Gio Gonzalez2.400.9315.010413

Losers: Texas Rangers

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    Weekly Record: 0-6

    No team took a bigger beating last week than the Texas Rangers.

    Swept at home by both Pittsburgh and Oakland, the Rangers dropped to 5.5 games behind the A's in the AL West and into a tie with Tampa Bay for the first AL wild-card berth, a team that Texas opens a crucial four-game road series against on Monday.

    The Rangers bats went completely silent last week, with only two players, Adrian Beltre and A.J. Pierzynski, collecting more than seven total bases over the six games that the team played—a silence that wasted another pair of terrific outings by Yu Darvish.

    Should Texas continue its swoon against the Rays (and Kansas City after that), the perennial playoff participant could find itself on the outside of the playoff race looking in by the time this week comes to an end.

    Notable Performers

    PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    Adrian Beltre.375.8401 (0)210
    A.J. Pierzynski.318.8153 (0)220
    PlayerERAWHIPIPHBBK
    Yu Darvish1.290.7114.08216
    Alexi Ogando0.000.273.2014

Winners: Cleveland Indians

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    Weekly Record: 5-2

    Not even dropping two of their three games against division rival and fellow wild-card contender Kansas City could make the Cleveland Indians one of last week's biggest losers. The Indians picked up 1.5 games in the wild-card chase and now sit a mere half-game behind Tampa Bay and Texas for a postseason berth.

    Former All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera finally showed a pulse at the plate for the first time all season, Ubaldo Jimenez looked like the pitcher that the Indians thought they acquired two years ago and with only three games left against playoff contenders this season—a three-game series at Kansas City that begins on Monday—the Indians control their playoff destiny.

    Notable Performers

    PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    Carlos Santana.4231.0551 (1)451
    Asdrubal Cabrera.2731.1524 (4)751
    PlayerERAWHIPIPHBBK
    Danny Salazar0.001.643.2429
    Ubaldo Jimenez0.591.0415.115118

Losers: Cincinnati Reds

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    Weekly Record: 2-4

    With things as close as they are in the NL Central, dropping games within the division—especially to the two teams that are out of the playoff race, Chicago and Milwaukee—is the last thing that a contender can afford.

    Yet that's exactly what happened to the Cincinnati Reds last week, as they lost two games on Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the division while watching Washington pick up 3.5 games on them in the wild-card race. 

    Of Cincinnati's 12 remaining games, six come against the Pirates, including a three-game series that begins on Friday. With winnable series against Houston and New York also on tap, the Reds can ill-afford another week of losing.

    Notable Performers

    PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    Joey Votto.4291.0992 (1)411
    Todd Frazier.333.9562 (1)320
    PlayerERAWHIPIPHBBK
    Bronson Arroyo2.701.0513.11047
    Mike Leake0.001.415.2446

Winners: Oakland Athletics

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    Weekly Record: 5-1

    After sweeping Texas to end the week, picking up five games on the Rangers in the AL West standings, the Oakland A's second consecutive division crown is all but a formality at this point.

    The A's don't face another playoff contender for the rest of the season, with Los Angeles, Minnesota and Seattle all that's left on the schedule. While the Mariners have won 10 of the 16 games that they've played against the A's this year, the two teams don't meet until the last series of the season. Oakland will have the division wrapped up well before they meet.

    Notable Performers

    PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    Josh Donaldson.4441.4493 (2)681
    Yoenis Cespedes.3161.0654 (1)930
    PlayerERAWHIPIPHBBK
    Bartolo Colon0.001.008.0717
    A.J. Griffin1.290.437.0218

Losers: New York Yankees

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    Weekly Record: 3-4

    Even after taking three out of four from Baltimore to start the week, the New York Yankees couldn't sustain their success against Boston and finished the week exactly where they started it: behind the Orioles and Indians in the race for one of the two wild-card spots, currently occupied by Tampa Bay and Texas.

    Losing Brett Gardner to an oblique strain was yet another major blow to the New York's playoff chances. The speedy outfielder may be out of action for the rest of the regular season, making the team's chances of landing in the playoffs that much more remote.

    The Yankees will need a strong showing against Toronto and San Francisco this week if they are to keep hope alive, something that is far easier said than done considering the state of the team at the moment.

    Notable Performers

    PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    Robinson Cano.296.8634 (1)630
    Alex Rodriguez.2741.0444 (2)440
    PlayerERAWHIPIPHBBK
    Joba Chamberlain0.001.002.0022
    Mariano Rivera2.700.603.1201

Winners: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Weekly Record: 6-1

    The Pittsburgh Pirates bounced back in a big way after being one of the biggest losers in Week 23, sweeping Texas and taking three of four from Chicago to erase the 1.5-game deficit that they faced in the NL Central and pull into a tie with St. Louis atop the division.

    Jeff Locke continued his strong play since returning from a brief minor league exile, throwing the ball as he did earlier this season, when he was among the league leaders in ERA. Meanwhile, rookie sensation Gerrit Cole has shown no signs of slowing down as we get deeper into September.

    The three-game series that Pittsburgh opens against Cincinnati on Friday will be a crucial one for the Pirates to win, if for no other reason than to put some distance between themselves and the Reds, who currently sit only 3.5 games behind them.

    Notable Performers

    PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    Ryan Zimmerman.3671.3587 (5)6101
    Wilson Ramos.290.9684 (4)1050
    PlayerERAWHIPIPHBBK
    Gerrit Cole0.000.3314.08516
    Jeff Locke1.290.577.0315

Winners: Boston Red Sox

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    Weekly Record: 5-1

    Going 5-1 in a given week is always a good thing, but when it comes against two division foes, including a sweep of your most hated rivals, winning is that much sweeter.

    The Boston Red Sox took two out of three from Tampa Bay, effectively ending the Rays' chances of catching them in the AL East, and swept the Yankees, perhaps inserting the final nails into the coffin that holds New York's 2013 campaign.

    Clay Buchholz is back in a big way, making an already solid Boston rotation that much more dangerous and giving the team a massive lift heading into the home stretch of the season.

    With Baltimore and Toronto on tap this week, the Red Sox can put even more distance between themselves and the rest of the division, moving that much closer to the team's first AL East crown since 2007.

    Notable Performers

    PlayerBAOPSXBH (HR)RBIRSB
    Mike Napoli.3331.1903 (1)420
    Daniel Nava.5001.0762 (0)1050
    PlayerERAWHIPIPHBBK
    Clay Buchholz0.000.9111.0559
    Jon Lester1.130.638.0325