Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Playoff Push

With one month to go in the regular season it’s time to see how the playoff races are shaping up and where our local squads stand in it the thick of it all. Here is a look at each league heading into Saturday night’s games.

International League
After a few season without much playoff excitement the Pawtucket Red Sox (63-50) are in the thick of the hunt, currently 1 ½ games behind the first place Lehigh Valley IronPigs (65-49) in the North Division. There are no more remaining games between these two teams and Pawtucket has 16 of their 30 remaining games against sub .500 teams.

The Columbus Clippers (71-42) have all but wrapped up the West with a league best 71-42 record and a 12 ½ game lead over second place. In the South, the Durham Bulls (62-49) currently maintain a 1 ½ game lead over the Gwinnett Braves (61-51).

The PawSox are currently in the driver’s seat for the IL’s Wild Card spot with four serious contenders breathing down their backs. Gwinnett (1 ½ games back) and the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees (60-52, 2 ½ back) are probably the two most serious threats at this point. The Indianapolis Indians (59-55) and Louisville Bats (59-55) both sit 4 ½ back of Pawtucket

Eastern League
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats (63-49) continue to distance themselves in the Eastern Division, building up a 5 game lead over the second place Reading Phillies (58-54). The New Britain Rock Cats (55-57) had been in contention for most of the season but have gone 2-8 over their last ten games and are in the midst of an 6-game losing streak, putting them 8 games back of New Hampshire and two games under .500. The Portland Sea Dogs (47-65) have never really been in it this year and are currently 16 ½ games back, but they can save some face by not finishing in last place.

The Western Division will be exciting to follow and should come down to the wire with the Harrisburg Senators (62-51) currently holding a slim ½ game margin over both the Bowie Baysox (61-51) and Richmond Flying Squirrels (61-51). The Akron Aeros (59-54) are also in the hunt, just 3 games back of the top.

Unlike the three-division International or New York-Penn Leagues, the Eastern League is broken up into two divisions. Therefore the regular season division winners, as well as the second place team in each division, will make the playoffs. In round one the division winner will have home-field advantage over the second place team in a best-of-five series. The winners of the two first round series will play in a best-of-five finals and this season the Eastern Division winner will host games one and two and the Western Division winner hosts games three, four (if necessary), and five (if necessary). This format alternates each season based on odd and even numbered years.

New York-Penn League
The Vermont Lake Monsters (24-23) have been riding the top of the meek Stedler Division for much of the season, much like they had last year before things blew up near the end. The Connecticut Tigers (20-26) are 3 ½ games back in the standings and the Lowell Spinners (20-28) are 4 ½ games back, with neither team even close in the Wild Card race. Their only hope is to catch the Lake Monsters and pray that the Tri-City ValleyCats (19-28) don’t creep past everyone and take the division like they did last year on the final regular season game of the season.

In the McNamara Division the Staten Island Yankees (33-14) have run away with things after a 13-game win streak near the start of season. They have a 7 ½ game cushion over the Brooklyn Cyclones (26-22).

The Pickney Division looks to be the most heated race, as four teams are within 6 games of the first place Auburn Doubledays. The Mahoning Valley Scrappers (28-20) are only 1 game back and currently lead the Wild Card race by one game over the Williamsport Crosscutters (27-21) and two games over the Jamestown Jammers (26-22) and Brooklyn.

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