Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 15, 2018 at 12:00 AM
THE ALL-STAR BREAK UPDATE:
WILL THE FIRST-PLACE TEAMS HANG ON? … IT’S THE SHORT-BUT-SWEET ALL-STAR GAME TRIVIA TEST
Ahhh, the annual Major-League Baseball All-Star Game arrives Tuesday night in the nation’s capital with most of the sport’s 30 teams fast approaching the 100-game mark – but the $64,000 question here is will the teams that currently occupy first place in their respective divisions be the same ones who are sitting on top at the end of this 162-game schedule?
Folks, we’re not gonna be a bit shy about revealing / sharing our thoughts on that matter and so get ready for our fast-paced look at all six division leaders and whether or not they’ll be standing on top of the heap come early October but first this key reminder …
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EAST – BOSTON (68-30) … 4.5 games ahead of the second-place New York Yankees
The Bosox are playing – get this -- .694 ball as we approach the Midsummer Classic and no way will they be able to keep up that pace, right? Sure, Boston is 32-13 in AL East play and sure to dominate also-rans Toronto and Baltimore in its remaining contests but our money’s on the Yankees to swipe this division based on a couple of factors: We trust NYY’s bullpen more than we do this Red Sox pen and we believe it’s more likely the Yanks will make a stunneroo trade (if it’s not SS Manny Machado from the Orioles than maybe a starting pitcher with some chops such as Detroit RHP Michael Fulmer or maybe San Francisco RHP Johnny Cueto).
Prediction: Yankees win the AL East with 104 wins; Boston gets a wild card with 102 wins
CENTRAL – CLEVELAND (52-43) … 7.5 games ahead of the second-place Minnesota Twins
Don’t want to hear anything about the Cleveland Indians winning this division “by default” ‘cause we believe that Tito Francona’s time-tested bunch will wind up winning right around 100 games when all the dust settles – what, the Tribe can’t win 22 in a row as was the case last summer? – and wind up smoking the competition here. Obviously, we’d like to see Cleveland be better on the road (21-24) but the bullpen’s getting healthier and this lineup could be scary with a Trade Deadline addition (we’re thinking Miami 1B Justin Bour or perhaps San Diego 1B Eric Hosmer).
Prediction: Indians will win this division by at least a dozen games
WEST – HOUSTON (64-35) … 5 games ahead of the second-place Seattle Mariners; 8 games ahead of the Oakland A’s
Hard to believe but true: The defending World Series champion Astros have been “lost in the shuffle” a bit with all this pro-Red Sox chatter but the reality is Houston’s playing .646 ball and is 18 games over .500 on the road. ‘Nuff said! The Astros will pull further away from the M’s/A’s in the coming weeks – a combination of Houston playing .646-or-better ball and those other AL West teams getting knocked back a bit – and mark us down for a big Astros trade that (finally) will land ‘em a top-flight reliever (we’re thinking Cincinnati Reds’ RHP Raisel Iglesias).
Prediction: The Astros win the West by 10-to-12 games and wind up with the best overall record in the junior circuit while the M’s secure that second wild card
EAST – PHILADELPHIA (53-42) … .5 games ahead of the second-place Atlanta Braves; 5.5 games over the Washington Nationals
Surprise, surprise! We don’t think either the Phillies or the Braves (52-42) will be flying an NL East pennant by year’s end: Yes, the Nationals (48-48) are gonna lay down the law after hosting the All-Star Game and – fearless forecast – both the not-ready-for-prime-time Phillies and Braves will take a step back while playing .500-or-worse ball the rest of the way. Odds are this Washington team will get on at least one major hot streak (see 12-of-15, 20-of-25, etc.) and steamroll past the teams ahead of them in the NL East standings and we won’t be surprised if they get a real jolt from a key trade … OF Justin Upton may need a change of scenery from Anaheim or maybe Kansas City 3B Mike Moustakas will be the elixir.
Prediction: The Nats win the East by a handful of games ahead of the Phillies, then the Braves finish third
CENTRAL – CHICAGO CUBS (55-38) … 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Milwaukee Brewers; 7.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals
Amazing how earlier this week we “predicted” that the Cubs would slide their way past the Brewers by the time we get to this All-Star Game break and, boy, did it happen in style with the Cubbies winning three in a row and 7 of their last 10 at press time while Milwaukee’s dropped six straight! Now, Chicago’s gonna hold off the team to the North, thanks in large part to this veteran starting rotation starring All-Star LHP Jon Lester and a deeper everyday lineup. If you’re wondering, we think Milwaukee will win 92-or-so games and get a handle on one of the league’s two wild cards and won’t be shocked if the new-look St. Loo Cardinals (goodbye, manager Mike Matheny) make a run for a wild card too.
Prediction: Count on the Cubs to win 98 games and snag this divisional crown by five or six games
WEST – LOS ANGELES DODGERS (53-43) … .5 game ahead of the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks; 2 games ahead of the Colorado Rockies; 4 games over the San Francisco Giants
History says the Dodgers have captured the NL West five years in a row … but count us among the folks that don’t believe they’ll make it six! The wild / wacky NL West may wind up getting decided by a single-yet-lengthy winning streak when it all comes to an end in late September / early October and our money is on the SF Giants to get “mission accomplished” thanks to a resurgent second half by LHP Madison Bumgarner and some big-time, clutch hitting from veterans such as OF Andrew McCutchen and C / 1B Buster Posey. In fact, we say Giants / Dodgers / D-Backs / Rockies / San Diego Padres will be the exact order of finish.
Prediction: The team by the bay wins this division by 3 or 4 games.
ALL-STAR GAME TRIVIA TEST
It’s time for our annual Jim Sez All-Star Game Trivia Test … so, let’s roll (answers at the end):
1 – Who were last year’s All-Star Game starting pitchers?
2 – What five players have won the All-Star Game MVP twice each?
3 – Who hit the only grand slam in All-Star Game history?
4 – Who has the most home runs in ASG history?
5 – Finally, who has faced the most batters in All-Star Game history?
Boston LHP Chris Sale started for the American League against Washington RHP Max Scherzer of the National League
Two-time All-Star Game MVPs include Gary Carter, Steve Garvey, Willie Mays, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Mike Trout
Boston’s Fred Lynn hit the ASG’s only grand slam in a 13-3 win by the American Leaguers back in 1983
St. Louis’ Stan Musial has six career All-Star Game home runs
One-time Los Angeles Dodgers great RHP Don Drysdale faced a record 69 batters in All-Star Games
NOTE: Get back to us after Tuesday’s All-Star Game with more exciting Jim Sez goodies!