Eye Toward October: Sept. 10

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Eye Toward October

- Oh, What a Night:

The Red Sox and Rays played one of the better games all season long -- a see-saw affair that saw Boston darling Jason Bay give his new club a dramatic lead in the eighth, followed by the upstart Rays showing surprising fight and scoring twice on closer Jonathan Papelbon to win the game.

The White Sox dropped a pair of games to the red-hot Blue Jays, who are seven games back of the Red Sox with seven left to play against Boston, and saw their lead over the Twins shrink to just one game.

Carlos Delgado's continued resurgence helped the Mets eke out a dramatic, late-inning win over the Nationals. The Cubs and Brewers continued to slump, in the case of the latter creating an intriguing wild-card race where there wasn't one just a few weeks before.

Finally, out west, the Dodgers yet again got Herculean efforts out of Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez to add another game to their division lead as the Diamondbacks wilted in the wake of ninth-inning rally.

It's all too easy to buy into the mantra that the games in April count just the same as they do in September. Of course, it's completely true. On the other hand, there's nothing more fun than baseball this time of year. Any fan can appreciate that.

- Twin Killing: Minnesota looked like a dead team walking this weekend. It had lost 11 of 15 heading into its series with the Royals Tuesday night and with the wild card virtually off the table was faced with the prospect of chasing down a White Sox team that has, for the most part, been better all season long.

But Chicago stumbled twice against Toronto, and Minnesota did what it was supposed to do, clobbering an overmatched Kansas City team. On top of all that, the White Sox might be without Paul Konerko, who strained his MCL, further stretching their depth in the wake of Carlos Quentin's injury. I've said it before, but I'll repeat it. The White Sox have been the better team all season long, but all Minnesota has to do is be two games better than them the rest of the way. With all the injuries Chicago is dealing with, the balance might have already shifted tot he Twins.

- Rays-ing the Ante: Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan looks awfully prescient considering the improbable win Tampa Bay pulled off in Boston Tuesday. The heart of Sheehan's piece is correct: The Rays' recent struggles are nothing to worry about, and there's a body of evidence from recent history supporting that.

In some small way, I suppose this contributed to the unneccessary panic over Tampa Bay's slump, but I was merely pointing out that the Rays should be looked at as less of a marvel and more of a serious contender now, and like any contender, they have holes.

- Pap's Pitch Selection: The Red Sox had better hope that Jonathan Papelbon learned his lesson Tuesday night. The Boston closer threw 30 straight fastballs over two nights, according to ESPN's Keith Law. Papelbon's fastball is outstanding -- easily one of the best in the game because of its tremendous late life. However, you can't throw it over and over again and expect to get away with it, not to major leaguers. He's got other good pitches, a splitter that's devastating when it's on and a workable slider. Boston has to hope Dan Johnsonprovided a friendly reminder to use those other offerings.

Andre the Giant: Manny Ramirez has been a huge factor in Los Angeles' surge to the top of the NL West, and I suppose he deserves some credit for the following too, but Andre Ethier has been enormous for the Dodgers lately. He's hitting .500 in his last 12 games and he drove in four runs in his club's victory over the Padres Tuesday.

It's ironic that a player GM Ned Colletti has repeatedly attempted to block by acquiring the likes of Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre could wind up helping to save his job. Ethier has nine home runs and 25 RBI and has boosted his OPS almost 100 points in the last month.

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