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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Pennant races go down to the wire

If you read my first column, you know how I feel about what almost was the ninth Major League Baseball players’ strike since 1972. However, I am and have always been an avid fan of America’s pastime. And, there is no greater time to be a fan of the game than when the summer is just about ready to end. I’m talking, of course, about mid to late September, as the season winds down and the pennant races heat up.

Speaking of races, 2002 has given us its share. They obviously did not come from the NL East or AL Central, as the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins were the first teams to clinch spots in the postseason. The Twins ran away with their first division championship since the days when our current president’s father was the Commander in Chief. That same time period marked the last time that the Braves did not win their division.

Despite the no-contest division races, no other division title has been locked up, with a little less than two weeks to go. The AL East, NL Central, and NL West races are not finished, but the fat lady is warming up as the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, and the defending World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks are close to clinching. Thank goodness for the wild card.

The wild card races in both leagues are nearly deadlocked at the moment, as division rivals duke it out for the fourth playoff spot. In the National League, the San Francisco Giants lead their rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, by one game for the NL wild card (as of Wednesday). The two teams conclude a four game series at Dodger Stadium tonight. The Houston Astros are in third in the NL wild card standings, standing five games behind the Dodgers.

Almost the same situation is occurring in the American League, but there is one big difference. See, with the Anaheim Angels and Oakland Athletics, one will get the AL wild card while the other will win the AL West. The two teams were tied for both the division and wild card leads going into Tuesday night’s game in Oakland. In an atmosphere that could be compared to that of game seven of the World Series, a great pitcher’s duel occurred between Anaheim’s Jarrod Washburn and Oakland’s Mark Mulder.

The game was scoreless in the top of the tenth inning when Angels right fielder Tim Salmon hit a solo home run off A’s closer Billy Koch. The Angels prevailed 1-0, and lead the division by one game (as of yesterday). Oakland has a seven game lead over the Seattle Mariners, who are dropping from the radar fast.

As for my prediction, Oakland will take the AL West from the Angels. Anaheim just won’t be able to keep the lead, again (1995). The Angels will end up with the AL wild card, while San Francisco will take the wild card in the NL. The Yankees will defeat the A’s in the division series, while the Twins will upset the Angels with the best home field advantage in baseball. As for the National League, the Giants will upset the Braves, while the D-Backs will beat the Cardinals. For some reason, I see Arizona and New York meeting in the fall classic for the second straight year, but with a different result. Fall baseball, it’s fantastic!

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