By Arnie Leshin
The pinstripes remain, but the New York Yankees are fading.
Not to say the Bronx Bombers won’t be in the post-season playoffs, and the huge lead they had accumulated in the American League East remains, but all of a sudden the Houston Astros are in control of the AL West and within a half-game of New York, 70-36 to 69-36.
And that makes a big difference in the playoffs, for the one that maintains the lead will get home field advantage at the outset.
While the Yanks are still 10 and one-half games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Astros are 11 and one-half better than the Seattle Mariners. And both Toronto and Seattle are right up there in the race for wild card berths.
How crowded is the wild card hunt? Well, in the East way behind New York, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and even the last place Boston Red Sox still have hope. This is the same Boston team, now a game below .500, that had dropped 10 in a row, and the Orioles are only three games over .500.
But as far as division races go, only the Central has something going. On top of the heap are the Minnesota Twins at 55-50, a half-game behind is new-name Cleveland at 54-51, and two games out of the lead are the Chicago White Sox at 53-52.
But while the Yankees were running up the number one record in the either league, it’s no longer there.
Now it belongs to the National League leading Los Angeles Dodgers, who at 72-33 and clearing a distance of 12 and one-game ahead of the second place San Diego Padres, who like the others far behind are 2 and one-half game up in the wild card race with their 61-47 record.
Then there’s the NL East. The New York Mets have held on the top spot since early in the season and are now 67-38 and lead the Atlanta Braves by 4 and one-half games after Thursday’s 6-4 win at Citi Field in the first of the five-game series against the Bravos.
Except Atlanta’s not panicking for it is control of the wild card hunt at 5 and a-half games and at 63-43. Even third place Philadelphia has a shot at getting in as a wild card. It won’t be easy, and it looks that way around both leagues, but still the hunt is on.
Just as the Central in the American League, the other close race in the National League is in the Central, and that’s a dandy between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. Howclose? Well, it’s a tie with both at 57-48.
And as it stands now, you can count at least 19 teams with a chance at gaining the playoffs.
As for the Yankees, they have split their last 10 starts, and so have the Astros. New York has dropped its last two while Houston has won its last two.
But in the National League West, no matter how well San Diego
may be playing by winning seven of its last 10, the soaring Dodgers have won eight of their last 10. And while the Yankees had once been six games better than the Anaheim franchise, they are now three games behind it.
At home the Dodgers are 35-15 and on the road are 37-18. At home the Yankees are a steady 41-15, and they are 29-21 away. As for Houston, it is 34-17 at home and 35-21 on the road. The Mets have played 33-17 ball at home and 35-21 away.
It could well wind up with a cross country World Series matching New York versus Los Angeles, but the LA Angels will not be involved. And currently there’s still great hope to reach that plateau for Houston, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Minnesota, Cleveland and Chicago, the White Sox, that is, and even Atlanta and maybe San Diego.
And if you like, you can even slide in Toronto and Seattle.
Nothing wrong with this in what is our National Pastime.