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Playing out the string

Several spoilers emerge among the non-contenders

Posted: Monday September 10, 2007 3:35PM; Updated: Monday September 10, 2007 5:22PM
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Some teams -- the Nationals, the Royals, the Rangers, even the Devil Rays this year -- are skilled at playing out the string. They know that, in the waning days of September, there is some good to be had in the final gasps of a lost season. All of those teams have played much better over the past two months. The Rangers and Nationals have winning records in that time.

Then there are others -- say the Orioles, the Marlins, the Astros, the Mariners, the Twins and the A's -- who just want to crawl into their offseason cave and die a quiet death. This has been an embarrassing year for those teams, especially over the past couple of months. Nothing can redeem it. And, so, they're playing out the string by playing like crud. They say they're trying to win. But all they really want is for this thing to end.

Well, it's coming, for all these teams. more weeks until October and winter vacation.

Here are this week's Power Rankings:

MLB Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 1 One measure -- OK, the latest measure -- of how deep the Sox are: Daisuke Matsuzaka is stinking up the place lately (3-6, 5.52 ERA in last 10 starts) and this team continues to roll over everybody. People are wondering whether the $100 million pitcher will even make the postseason roster. The Sox are only 15-14 when he starts. But the point here is, the Sox are so good that they don't even need him.
2 2 As well as the Angels are playing, they have their concerns, too. Vlad Guerrero has missed four straight games with a sore elbow. Gary Matthews can't hit lefties for spit. Closer Francisco Rodriguez has been a little shaky at times in the past month or so. Scot Shields has been bumped from his setup role. Yet, like the Red Sox, these guys keep on rolling on. Don't stand in their way.
3 3 That weekend split in Anaheim was solid work, even if the Angels were missing Vlad the Great. The Indians are to the point where only a complete collapse -- or the Cuyahoga catching fire and swallowing them up -- would stop them from winning the American League Central. And the Cuyahoga, you know, has only caught on fire, like, once. So the Indians, six games up, are in fairly good shape.
4 4 Talk about being on fire ... engrave the MVP trophy already, ready a spot for the Yanks in the postseason, get the team lawyers on drafting that $32 million a year extension and hold that corner locker in the new Yankee Stadium. The man wants a memorabilia tent in Times Square, give it to him. Alex Rodriguez has seven homers in five games, knocking Capt. Jeter (sore knee) out of the headlines.
5 6 We now have reason to believe that the Mets, after getting their butts kicked by the Phillies a couple of weeks ago, have awakened. Sure, we've all believed that before. But get this: If they roll into the postseason with a 1-2 rotation punch of Tom Glavine (6-0 in last 12 starts, 3.30 ERA) and Pedro Martinez (two wins in his two starts) pitching like they have been, this will be one dangerous team.
6 7 The only mystery team remaining standing, the Diamondbacks now have a grip on the National League West after winning two of three from San Diego. That grip, though, is tenuous, especially now that Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson, a spark for that up-and-down lineup, busted up his thumb in a slide and won't play any more this season. Hold on: This thing is far from over.
7 5 The catalyst for their surging offense, Milton Bradley, is in the pits with a pulled oblique. (If these guys were any fatter, we'd have to call that injury a blown tire.) Pitcher Chris Young, just making his way back from an oblique blowout, is worrying people (losing Sunday to the Rocks). For the Padres to pull out of this thing, they'll need to beat L.A. this week at Dodger Stadium. Then they can coast for awhile.
8 8 The NL East title is just a dream now, but the fact that the Phillies start this week with any kind of postseason hope at all is stunning, especially after blowing two 5-0 leads -- to the Marlins and, before that, the Braves -- in a .500 week. Three MVP candidates in their infield (Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard) doesn't hurt. If any of them could pitch, they'd really be MVP.
9 10 Compared to Lloyd Carr and the folks up in Ann Arbor, the Tigers are looking positively chipper. The truth is, though, even after beating back the already dead Mariners, the Tigers don't have much left. Jeremy Bonderman, terrible after the break, is being shelved with an elbow ailment. The Tigers host the red-hot (seriously) Rangers to start the week. This is not going to end well.
10 13 A series win over the Padres has given the Rocks their 23rd dose of (false?) hope this season. They're only three games out of the wild-card lead. They can pass Philly with a series win against them this week. Then only the Dodgers (seven games remaining against them) and the Padres (three) stand in their way. Sure, it's possible. Absolutely. Without a doubt. Keep the faith.

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