With the regular season nearing its end, races are heating up for teams with playoff aspirations and individual players chasing milestones. Here is an updated look at what’s going on around the MLB.
Cabrera Chases Triple Crown
Although the Detroit Tigers have a comfortable lead atop the American League Central, there is still plenty of intrigue surrounding the team, as slugger Miguel Cabrera continues chasing his second consecutive Triple Crown, an achievement that would put him in a league of his own as the only player to ever accomplish the feat in back-to-back seasons. Cabrera’s marks in batting average (.358) and RBI (123) lead the American League, and his 40 home runs put him just six behind league-leader, Chris Davis.
Davis is looking to make history of his own, as his 46 homers have him on pace to shatter the Baltimore Orioles single-season home run mark of 50, set by Brady Anderson in 1996.
AL East Tightens Up
Things are getting awfully interesting in the AL East, especially up top, where the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox continue to duke it out for the division lead. The Orioles are also within striking distance, sitting just 5.5 games back through Aug. 21 with plenty of chances to make up the difference as three of their final four series are against either the Red Sox or Rays.
The New York Yankees have also recently entered the division race after lingering at the bottom for much of the season. Sitting 11.5 games out on Aug. 7, the Yankees have stormed back to within 6.5 games of the lead, using the returns of Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson to their lineup to run off a series of wins that have put them right in the thick of the discussion. Only four games out of a Wild Card spot, the Yanks will undoubtedly have plenty to play for down the stretch.
Ichiro Reaches Historic Hits Mark
One of the players most responsible for the Yankees newfound team success also reached a significant personal milestone recently. On Aug. 21, Ichiro collected the 4,000th hit of his professional career, which includes his 1,278 hits during his nine years in Japan as well as his 2,722 hits since his MLB debut in 2001. The 39-year-old outfielder joined Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only players to eclipse the 4,000-hit mark, although Rose and Cobb both accumulated all of their hits in the MLB. The first-inning single was also significant in that it moved Ichiro past Yankees legend Lou Gehrig on the league’s all-time hits list.
That the star-studded Los Angeles Dodgers hold an 8.5-game lead in NL West in late August is not a shock in itself, but when considering the fact that the team was in dead last in the division and faced a 9.5-game deficit on June 21, the team’s current position is rather extraordinary.
The team’s run has been fueled by rookie sensation Yasiel Puig and star shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Puig has been a highlight machine in the outfield and at the plate, where he is hitting .346 with 12 homers, while Ramirez has returned to MVP-caliber form by boasting a .348 batting average with 40 RBI. With a loaded pitching staff and the two sluggers anchoring the lineup, the Dodgers appear poised to make some noise when the playoffs roll around.
Braves Stretch NL East Lead
In a season that has been memorable for its tight division races, the Atlanta Braves have managed to blow the NL East wide open. With a 15-game lead over the second-place Washington Nationals, the Braves have nearly doubled the next-largest division lead. Chris Johnson has tempered any concerns about who would fill the void at third base for the retired Chipper Jones this season, leading the National League in batting average by hitting at an incredible .332 clip. The Braves’ winning ways have largely coincided with Johnson’s hot hitting, as he’s collected two or more hits 10 times during the team’s 14-game winning streak.
Three-Team Race in NL Central
While the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates have been trading the lead in the NL Central since the All-Star break, the Cincinnati Reds are still very much in the hunt. The defending NL Central champs have been hanging around in third place, and sit just 2.5 games behind the Pirates. However the division ultimately shakes out, it’s possible that all three teams could make the postseason, as the Reds hold a six-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks for the final Wild Card spot.