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Postseason scramble

Yanks peak at right time; Rockies spice up NL races

Posted: Monday September 24, 2007 2:21PM; Updated: Monday September 24, 2007 3:05PM
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Baseball's final regular-season week of games doesn't offer up any of those classic head-to-head, winner-take-all, overly dramatized and overly hyphenated last-gasp series. Unless you're counting that Arizona at Colorado series next weekend, which holds some possibilities.

Still, there are wild cards to be handed out. Four of the six divisions are yet to be won. There are spoilers ready to spoil, and leaders ready to falter. By my count, there are 11 teams that are either in or have a reasonable shot at being in a playoff series next week.

The best action will be in the National League, especially out West, where the Padres try to hold on to their wild-card lead while fending off the surprising Rockies (eight straight wins) and even more surprising Phillies (no discernible pitching staff). The stumbling Mets could make things interesting, too, giving the Phils another possible avenue (the East division title) into October.

As is most often the case at this time of the grueling season, no postseason contender is without its flaws. Pitchers are dragging. Hitters are sore. Tempers (I'm talking to you, Milton Bradley) are short.

But this is it. This is the last week. The regular-season second guessing stops on Sunday.

Until then, here are this week's Power Rankings.

MLB Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 3 April and May were forever ago, you know? Over the past four months the Yankees, like it or not, have been the best team in the game. They have their problems, mainly a shaky rotation and a bullpen that seems to consist solely of: 1.) a future Hall of Famer and, 2.) a kid everyone wants to put in the Hall now. (It's the Mo and Joba show!) But they've won 14 of 17. They're playing .654 ball since the end of May. They're No. 1.
2 2 The new Central division champs have been super steady all season. They never dipped under .500. Never got more than 2 games from first place. Never lost more than four in a row, and they did that only twice. I easily could have pushed the Tribe into the top spot. And maybe they deserve it. Right now, they'll have to be content with winning 11 of 14 and heading to the postseason on their terms.
3 4 The only reservations I have about the West division champs as they brace for the playoffs is their health. Vladimir Guerrero's arm has him doing DH time. Kelvim Escobar (17-7, 3.46 ERA) has a sore shoulder. But Bartolo Colon pitched well Saturday; he could make the postseason roster. And, at DH, Vlad is resting up in case they need him in the field later in October. You know what I'm saying, Angels fans.
4 1 The leaders in the East stumbled through a bad week in which skipper Terry Francona found out some things (Tim Wakefield is struggling, Daisuke Matsuzaka is tired, Eric Gagne is a mess, Jonathan Papelbon is human) that he probably didn't want to find out. Still, the Sox clinched their playoff spot and, with a decent week at home (vs. the A's and Twins), still could win the East. They're limping to the line, though.
5 5 I'm not the first to this party, but if Bob Melvin isn't the NL Manager of the Year ... well, I have one other candidate (drop down a couple spots). Melvin has taken this youngish team, guided it through some key injuries (Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson, even Chad Tracy) and has had the D'backs at least tied for the NL West lead every day but one since July 28. They're not in yet. But they will be.
6 8 It's hard to have a lot of faith in a team that everybody -- including the Mets -- says should be so much better. Now they have to worry about center fielder Carlos Beltran's sore knee, Billy Wagner's balky back and a bullpen that, overall, just doesn't click (Guillermo Mota's 5.59 ERA -- ugh). The Mets finish with a cushy week at home, though. Wanna hear Willie Randolph's latest inspirational speech? Yeah, me, too.
7 12 With big-time sweeps of the Dodgers and Padres, the Rocks have now won eight straight, putting the "wild" back into the wild-card race. The credit here has to go to the strong hand of MOY candidate Clint Hurdle, who has guided a young team that most thought was at least a year away to its best-ever record (84 wins and counting). Warning flag: MVP candidate Matt Holliday (.337, 36 homers) has a sore oblique.
8 6 Just from what I've seen, I have to back Bradley on this one. Look at the replays of that spat with umpire Mike Winters. Is there any reason -- any! -- that an umpire has to keep jawing at a player like that? If Bradley is out of line, toss him. Simple. But to keep jabbering? Ridiculous. Meanwhile, the reeling Padres -- now with a possibly injured Bradley -- have to get serious. They're on the road all week.
9 7 The Phils are so hurting for usable arms that they ran relievers J.C. Romero, Brett Myers and Tom Gordon out on back-to-back days. And then did it again. And then added one more day for good measure. Five straight days for those guys. The Phils have won nine of 11, but the question is whether they can push past the Padres to grab the wild card. Then the question is: What then?
10 10 The outfield surface is so bad in Chicago -- rowdy '80s kids at the Police concerts at Wrigley Field in early July got out of hand, evidently -- that players are starting to complain. Nobody on the North Side is whining about what the left fielder is de do do doing, though. Alfonso Soriano has 13 homers in his last 24 games (with a 1.097 OPS), and the Cubs have pulled away from Milwaukee in the Central. October, here they come.

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