It’s only August, but pennant fever is in the air.
Of the six divisions in the major leagues, only three races are still contested. The Astros, Dodgers and Nationals are already making their plans for the playoffs. The other three? Well, they could have August and September sizzling.
Three regional rivalries are intriguing, to say the least, with Boston and New York battling it out in the AL East, the Indians and Royals in the AL Central and the Cubs and Brewers in the National League Central. These heated contests make for some strange, and often borderline obsessive, viewing habits in sports bars across the country.
Those strange and obsessive viewers? Count me among them. I go to my local watering hole with Direct TV and ask that the Red Sox and Yankees games be shown on adjacent screens and watch two games at once. With the pace of baseball, you can actually catch close to every pitch in both. Tuesday was a great night, for me at least.
The Red Sox – my team – are the hottest in baseball right now, with seven straight wins and holding a four-game lead over the Yankees. But the arch-rivals that match Duke and Carolina in terms of intensity play six times in the next two weeks, which could decide the division – or make it too close to call.
Sox ace Chris Sale shut out Tampa Bay on two hits and 13 strikeouts through eight innings, while the Yankees fell behind at Toronto and mounted comeback after comeback to no avail. The ninth inning of both games were played almost pitch for pitch and ended within seconds of each other.
Blue Jays’ closer Robert Osuna got Brett Gardner on a line-out to shortstop. Boston’s imposing closer Craig Kimbrel struck out Rays’ pinch hitter Lucas Duda. The Yanks pinch hit former Red Sox speedster Jacoby Ellsbury, who popped up to short to leave the bases empty for Aaron Judge, the slumping rookie slugger who needed a man on to tie the 4-2 game.
Evan Longoria faced Kimbrel with no Rays aboard and he whiffed too, leaving the bases clear for their home run leader Logan Morrison in a 2-0 deficit. Judge, who hit .329 with 30 homers before the All-Star Game, continued his skid with a lame pop-up to first base, as the Yankees lost. Seconds later, on the other screen, Kimbrel fanned Morrison. Games over. Oh, what a night!