By James Bailey
As hot as the Rockies have been lately, they own just the fourth best record in baseball since the All-Star break. The Yankees, who were three games behind Boston at the break, have gone on a sick tear since then, winning at a .755 clip (40-13). Their +92 run differential is the best in baseball over the second half. The next two hottest teams have each extended their leads in their respective divisions. The Cardinals are 35-15 (.700) over the second half, while the Angels are 35-18 (.660). That has put St. Louis on the verge of clinching the NL Central, while the Angels have pushed a 1.5-game lead over Texas at the break up to a 5-game cushion.
In the AL East, the Yankees have opened a huge lead, leaving the Red Sox to battle with the Rangers for the wild card. Boston ranks third in the AL in runs scored over the second half (272) but their pitching has been just average and they are only three games over .500 after finishing the first half 20 games over. Tampa Bay has fallen out of the race by playing sub-.500 baseball. The Orioles, who finished the first half at a respectable 40-48, own the worst record in baseball over the second half, with a .314 winning percentage.
The Tigers look like they’ll win the AL Central by default. No team in the division has outscored its opponents over the second half. Detroit is two games over .500, which amazingly has been enough to extend its lead from 4 games to 5.5. The Indians, who were 19 games under .500 at the break, are the only other team in the division without a losing second-half mark.
The AL West is the tightest division in the league, with the Rangers just 5 games behind the Angels. At their current paces, both clubs will make the postseason, though Texas is currently still 2 games behind Boston for the wild-card spot. The wild-card race looks to be the only serious battle left in the AL, unless the Angels suddenly fall apart and let the Rangers get close. That appears unlikely. Though Seattle is just one game under .500 over the second half, it has been outscored by 42 runs and doesn’t even look like a serious spoiler. The A’s, on the other hand, are fourth in the AL in runs scored in the second half and could inflict collateral damage. They have four games left against the Rangers and six remaining against the Angels.
The NL East is the only division in baseball with three teams winning at better than a .550 rate since the break. The Phillies have bumped their lead over the Marlins from 4 games to 5, but they haven’t been able to completely shake them, or the Braves, for that matter. With the Rockies upping the wild-card stakes, Florida and Atlanta would have to catch Philadelphia to make the playoffs. At the bottom of the division, the lowly Nationals aren’t all that lowly, at least not compared to the injury-ravaged Mets.
The Cardinals have their magic number in the NL Central down to 12 thanks to their incredible .700 run since the break. Matt Holliday has helped, but it’s been St. Louis’s pitching staff that has built this lead. Cardinal pitchers have allowed just 170 runs over the second half, the stingiest by far in either league. The division finally has some definition after being so tightly grouped over the first three months of the season. The Brewers, just 2.5 games behind at the break, are nine games under .500 since, and have allowed 280 runs, the most in the NL. That’s three more than the Nationals have surrendered—in two fewer games. The Pirates own the worst second-half record in the NL, at 16-34. Their 188 runs scored are tied for the lowest in the majors and their -85 run differential is the worst in baseball.
Not all that long ago, it looked like the Dodgers were in for a cakewalk in the NL West. They owned baseball’s best record at the break (56-32) and a 7-game lead over the Giants. They’re barely over .500 since (27-26), allowing the Rockies to come out of nowhere and nearly catch them. Colorado has gained seven games already in the second half, thanks to a 34-19 showing. They’ve pushed ahead of the Giants, who are two games over .500 since the break despite tying for the fewest runs scored (with the Pirates). Their pitching is still among the best in the majors, but they’ve been outscored by five runs in the second half because their offense is so inept.
Here are the standings for the six divisions since play resumed following the All-Star break, complete through games of Sept. 10: