(CBS Minnesota/CBS Local Sports) — The American League Central race, where the Cleveland Indians have climbed up to tie the Minnesota Twins, is easily the most interesting division battle right now. That wasn’t the case two months ago, when the Twins were sitting on a 10-plus-game lead. Then the Indians got hot.
The race in the National League East, where the New York Mets can’t seem to lose, may soon heat up as well. (The NL Central, with three teams within two-and-a-half games, certainly deserves to be part of the conversation too.) The Mets still have enough games left with the division-leading Atlanta Braves to make a run. But the a wildcard spot looks to be a more realistic goal.
Much further down the standings, the Baltimore Orioles continue to find new and exciting ways to embarrass themselves. The team outdid themselves Saturday, giving up 23 runs to the Houston Astros.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at the dramatic AL Central race, the surging Mets and the flailing Orioles.
AL Central Race Continues
Sunday, the Twins scored two runs the in the bottom of the ninth to tie the Indians. The Indians Carlos Santana then hit a 10th-inning grand slam to give his team a four-run lead; Minnesota couldn’t respond.
The win pulled the Indians into a tie for the AL Central lead, with both teams sitting at 71-47 after Sunday’s action. That the AL Central could be a race at all seemed improbable a couple months ago.
Flip back the calendar to the start of June, when the Twins held a comfortable 10 1/2-game lead. The Indians, at a game under .500, weren’t out of it by any stretch, but they had a lot of work to do.
Since then, Cleveland has been the hottest team in baseball, reeling off 43 wins. The Twins, playing better than .500 ball during that time frame, didn’t exactly give away their lead. But 33 wins against 29 losses hasn’t been enough to keep control of the AL Central.
The Twins and Indians have seven head-to-head games left this season. And Minnesota may still hold the advantage. Their schedule is easier, and their firepower — 228 home runs so far, and on pace to blow by the Yankees’ 2017 MLB record — keeps them in every game.
Nevertheless, with the Indians in action Monday night against the Boston Red Sox and the Twins off, the Indians could actually take the lead by a half game. This story is far from over.
Mets Keep Winning
The Mets’ season-best eight-game winning streak ended Sunday with a 7-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. Leading up to Sunday, the Mets had won 15 of their previous 16 games to pull themselves above .500 and into the thick of the NL wild card race.
One criticism of the Mets revival, at least before this weekend, was that they hadn’t really played any good teams lately. Every win in August had come against teams languishing below .500. But then the Amazins took two of three games from the Nats, who lead them in the standings and the wild card race.
In both Friday and Saturday’s wins, the Mets came from behind in exciting fashion and now find themselves one game back in a crowded wild card race. As of Monday, they also trail the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves by eight games. The once impossible now seems merely improbable.
They could even gain some ground on the Braves this week, with the first of two three-game series against them this month opening on Tuesday.
Astros Blast Orioles
The Orioles are getting really good at being bad. And last week provided some more choice examples. In their series with the Yankees, the the team allowed 16 home runs over three games, tying an MLB record. Outfielder DJ Stewart misplayed a fly ball, which hit him in the head and gave him a concussion. And a day later, Orioles slugger Chris Davis had to be restrained from attacking manager Brandon Hyde.
So it should surprise no one that the AL West-leading Astros scored 23 runs in a game against the hapless Orioles over the weekend. That total set a Houston team record. The Astros hit six home runs, three of them coming off the bat of rookie Yordan Alvarez.
The Orioles did save a little face Sunday, managing an 8-7 win over the Astros. And even with a record of 39-78, which puts them 37 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees, the Orioles aren’t even the worst team in baseball. That honor goes to the Detroit Tigers, who are 35-80.