- Wild-Card Races Taking Shape: This isn't quite what we expected a week ago. The AL wild-card race was supposed to come down to the wire with Boston, Minnesota, Chicago and just maybe the Yankees battling for two spots in the postseason, while the NL was supposed to be a foregone conclusion, with the hard-charging Brewers cruising into October.
But just the opposite has happened. Boosted by the superb play of Dustin Pedroia and the strong returns of Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, the Red Sox are pulling away in the American League and making a strong push to win the East again.
Milwaukee, on the other hand, is slumping at the wrong time -- pulled down by a miserable relief corps. The Phillies are now lurking four games back of the Brew Crew. It's still unlikely that Milwaukee will miss out on the October festivities, but both of the NL East clubs have played well enough that a wild-card bid is not out of the question for either.
Time is growing short, but all it takes is a week for things to shift dramatically.
- Quentin Questions:Carlos Quentin's broken wrist leaves his season in doubt and his team on shaky ground as they try to fend off the Twins. The White Sox left fielder was the odds-on favorite to win the AL MVP before getting hurt, but Chicago should be able to do a fine job of replacing his production with Paul Konerko and Ken Griffey Jr. around.
But neither player is Quentin. Chicago has been the best team in the AL Central all season long and should probably have a bigger lead over the Twins than it does, but what matters now is if it is a better team for the final three weeks of the season. Without Quentin, the White Sox can't be considered clear favorites in a sprint to the finish.
- D'back Despair: It's officially time to panic in Arizona. Dan Haren turned in the shortest outing of his season Friday night in the opener of a critical series with the Dodgers, and there is some speculation that he is pitching hurt.
Brandon Webb was knocked around again on Saturday, failing in his third attempt at reaching the 20-win threshold and surrendering a career-high six walks. Worst of all, veteran Randy Johnson won't even make it to the mound Sunday because of shoulder fatigue. Those three pitchers hold the key to Arizona's success in September and beyond. Right now, they're coming up very small.
- Phils-Mets Has Sizzle: The final meeting of the year between New York and Philadelphia couldn't set up any more perfectly. Cole Hamels and Johan Santana will meet on ESPN's Sunday night telecast. It's fitting that the two best pitchers in this rivalry will get to have the last say in their head-to-head meetings.
- Bronx Bummer: After nearly getting no-hit by Seattle's Brandon Morrow, even the Yankees are conceding that their season is pretty much over.