The If Game
Admittedly, it’s too early to be playing the If game. Remember Wild Card Wednesday 2011?
Refresher: On August 26, 2011, the Braves held a commanding 10.5 game lead over the Cardinals. Through 161 games, they were tied. The Cardinals won their last game of the regular season by shutting out the Astros. Craig Kimbrel, the MLB saves leader and Rookie of the Year, coughed up a 3-2 lead for the Braves in the top of the 9th sending the Cardinals to the playoffs, and eventually to the World Series.
In the American League, the Red Sox had the best record in the league and had a nine-game lead over the Rays. After losing 19 of their next 26, they were tied with the Rays after 161 games. In game 162, Jonathan Papelbon was in to close it out. With two outs and a 3-2 lead in the top of the 9th, the Orioles went double-double-single. And just like that, the game was over and their playoff hopes were in the Rays’ hands. Tampa Bay, who was down 7-0 in the 9th inning, put up a six-spot in the 8th inning. In the bottom of the 9th – with two outs – Dan Johnson hit a home run to tie the game. In the bottom of the 12th, Evan Longoria hit a walk-off homer to cap off what is now known as Wild Card Wednesday.
Although potentially pointless due to the dynamic nature of baseball, let’s play the If game. I’m sure you guys can play with the numbers and figure out what the Dodgers need to do in all of the different scenarios to tie or surpass the Giants, but here are two arbitrary win totals to try to put the Giants’ NL West lead into perspective.
The Giants entered today with a 76-58 record and a 4.5 game lead on the second-place Dodgers (five in the loss column). Looking at their respective schedules, the Giants appear to have the easier path the rest of the way. While the Giants don’t play any teams other than the Dodgers with a record above .500, the Dodgers still have ten games against the Cardinals, Nationals, and Reds – with the latter two series on the road.
If the Giants go 14-14 over their final 28 games, the Dodgers must finish 18-9 to tie.
Over a 162 game season, winning at a .667 clip is rarely seen, but over a small sample like 27 games – even though 10 are against potential playoff teams – it doesn’t seem completely out of the question, especially if the Dodgers’ bats heat up.
If the Giants go 16-12 over their final 28, which is essentially continuing to win at their current clip, the Dodgers would have to go 20-7.
To add another variable, there’s the Wild Card. Three out of the Giants, Braves, Cardinals, Pirates, and Dodgers will “make the playoffs.” The Giants have a commanding advantage in both races. With the Dodgers and Cardinals squaring off for four games, it gives the Giants even more edge since somebody has to lose during those four games. Although it isn’t the ideal alternative, it is in fact an alternative if the Giants happen to falter.
Of course, this is baseball. What holds true in September doesn’t necessarily hold true in October. Anything can happen. Just ask the Red Sox and Cardinals. That’s the romantic nature of baseball.
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