(CBS Chicago/CBS Local) — Baseball after Labor Day should come with an air of excitement… urgency. After all, division titles are on the line, with the playoffs to follow.
But with three weeks left in the season, only National League Central race has any real drama surrounding it. The American League Central may also deserve a second glance. Every other division is all but decided.
The Boston Red Sox won’t be a playoff team come October. And with the recent firing of Dave Dombrowski, the team’s president of baseball operations, they basically admitted as much. The roster will need some fixing this offseason, if the Red Sox are to return to the postseason in 2020.
While the Minnesota Twins control their fate, they now have to fill a hole in their starting rotation. Right-hander Michael Pineda was suspended Saturday for taking a banned substance.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at the lackluster division races, the Red Sox firing and Michael Pineda’s suspension.
The League’s Lackluster Division Races
With three weeks left in the regular season, only one division race is competitive… the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals currently lead the Chicago Cubs by 4.5 games going into Monday’s action.
The Cubs, however, have an easier schedule in the near future. They start a four-game series with the San Diego Padres tonight out west, before returning home to take on Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. All three opponents are at least 10 games under .500. The Cardinals will face the lowly Colorado Rockies in Denver before hosting series against the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals this weekend and early next week. Both the Brewers and Nationals are fighting for a wild card spot.
So going into the last week and a half of the season, the NL Central race could be even closer than it is now. And that’s when the Cardinals and Cubs play two three-game series, the first in Chicago and the second in St. Louis.
Aside from control of the NL Central, really only the AL Central has any chance of changing hands. The Minnesota Twins lead the Cleveland Indians by 5.5 games.The two clubs meet up this weekend for a three-game series, which could make things interesting. While the Indians keep hanging around, they can’t seem to do any more than that.
As for the rest of MLB, the other division winners are basically set, even if the divisions aren’t necessarily clinched. The New York Yankees lead the Tampa Bay Rays by 8.5 games going into Monday action. Their magic number for winning the American League East stands at 10. Any combination of Yankees wins and Rays losses that adds up 10 clinches the division for the Yankees. The Houston Astros control the American League West, up 9.5 games over the Oakland Athletics. Their magic number to clinch is also 10.
Over in the National League, the Atlanta Braves just won three of four over the Nationals, pushing their East lead to nine games and dropping their magic number to 11. The Dodgers have controlled the West all season and currently enjoy a 17-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks. This “race” has been over for a long time, though the magic number still stands at two games.
Dave Dombrowski Out In Boston
It’s been a tough season for baseball in Boston. The Red Sox, defending World Series champions, have struggled to a 76-67 record, good enough for third place in the AL East. They won’t win the division and look destined to miss the Wild Card as well.
After Sunday’s 10-5 loss to the Yankees the Red Sox fired Dave Dombrowski, team president of baseball operations for the last four years. During his tenure, Boston has won 93, 93 and 108 games and is on pace to win 86 games.
But success has brought high expectations to Boston. And some have suggested that the roster going into 2019 wasn’t up to the task of repeating. The team had lost Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly in the offseason without suitable replacements. New deals for Chris Sale, Steve Pearce, and Nathan Eovaldi haven’t paid off yet either, and an under-performing starting rotation certainly hasn’t helped any.
Twins Michael Pineda Suspended
Twins starting pitcher Michael Pineda was suspended over the weekend for using a banned substance. That substance was hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic, which can mask other substances. The 280-pound Pineda claims the substance was found in an over-the-counter medication that he used to help manage his weight.
The suspension will last 60 games, effective immediately, and extend through the playoffs and well into next season. His absence will leave a hole in the Twins rotation as the team moves through a critical part of the season. Pineda is 11-5 so far in 2019, with a 4.01 ERA. He’s logged 140 strikeouts in 146 innings.