The Fourth of July more often than not coincides with Major League Baseball reaching the halfway point of its marathon 162-game schedule.
Every team now has reached the 81-game mark and that’s why the 4th is considered such a barometer.
As of right now we don’t have a lot of riveting pennant races, but a lot can happen after America’s holiday.
The closest race is the American League East, where Baltimore has a 2 1/2 game lead over Boston, with Toronto a half-game back of the Bosox.
This will probably be the best race of the six because of the contenders being so flawed. I still think the New York Yankees are going to make a push, despite their age. When you have a back end of the bullpen like they do, all they need is for their starters to go six innings.
So expect a four-team race into September.
In the AL Central, the smoking-hot Cleveland Indians have widened their lead to 6 1/2 games over Detroit and 7 over the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals.
I championed Cleveland during the preseason, though I had it making postseason play as a wild-card. I thought Detroit would win the division, while I expected Kansas City to fall back after making the World Series each of the last two years. I subscribe to “they are due theory” and I just didn’t think all that had gone right for the Royals in 2014 and 2015 could carry over. While they are 43-39, their starting pitching is among the worst in baseball and injuries have plagued the everyday lineup.
Cleveland will simmer from its boil at some point, but I think it can hold off Detroit for the division title.
In the AL West, it’s looking more and more like a Texas runaway. Houston has been climbing out of a deep hole, but the Rangers are more balanced. Houston, however, could very well make it as a wild-card team. It has a lot of games left with the AL West, which houses weak sisters Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels.
Texas also looks to be the team to beat in the American League, but Cleveland’s pitching gives it a shot.
I have a feeling we could have two runaway races in the National League before all is said and done. The Chicago Cubs have parlayed their 25-6 start to a huge lead and while they have been around .500 for the past 6 weeks, they have the starting pitching to last the long haul. St. Louis and Pittsburgh just don’t have it this year and I’ll be surprised if either makes it as a wild-card.
San Francisco is 5 up on the Los Angeles Dodgers, but look for this lead to grow. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants — my pick to win it all at the start of the year — open a chasm between the teams and the final margin is a dozen games.
The intriguing race is the NL East, where Washington and New York are going to take this down to the final week. The Nationals appear to be the more-rounded team and have star power at the top of their rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. But everytime they seem primed to pull away, they hit the skids.
It looks the Cubs’ year, though, as their long-time suffering fan base is going to be rewarded with a trip to the Series.