To take inspiration from Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah, the 2015 baseball season is turning into the home stretch with teams starting to position themselves for the stretch run. Since the calendar has turned to August there has been three teams who are starting to get hot and make their move toward a playoff run.
The Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, and Chicago Cubs are all starting to surge toward the front of the pack with each team winning with a much different approach. Combined, the trio is 25-5 over their last ten games and have all moved into a playoff spot. The question is will they have enough steam for the closing run?
The Blue Jays are bludgeoning opponents like they are swinging at a slow pitch softball. They lead the Majors in runs scored by a wide margin, and have scored 59 runs over their last ten games. Toronto is also closing ground on leading the league in home runs hit by hitting at least two home runs in four of their last five games. The Jays have added Troy Tulowitzki to a lineup that included already Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. They are all led by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson. The Bringer or Rain is in the top seven of a handful of offensive categories including leading the Majors in runs and RBIs. Toronto is pinning their October run on just flat out out-slugging their opponents, and they are not shying away from that approach.
For the longest time, the Mets were determined to try and find a way to win a game by scoring zero runs in support of their great pitching. But since acquiring Yoenis Cespedes by trade, the offense has taken off to truly support their talented rotation. New York has scored 39 runs in their last seven games thanks to that jolt from Cespedes to take over the division lead in the NL East. With a more balanced attack, New York just may be poised to pull away in the East and into October. Their strength will still however be their rotation led by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard who have led the Mets to the third-best ERA in the Majors, and in October good pitching still generally trumps good hitting. Their question mark is will the young arms hold up as the season moves deeper into crunch time?
For the Cubs, this season has seen growing pains in all phases of the game. But now in August, the young Cubs find themselves ahead of the developmental schedule, relevant in August, and in possession of a current Wild Card spot. Their approach has been getting all-in-all solid starting pitching results and a ton of production from their rookie stars. Chicago has the fifth-best ERA in the Majors with a surprising 13 shutouts. Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young candidate, and Jon Lester has found his groove in the second half. The Cubs offensive production has been rookie top heavy with a lot of Anthony Rizzo mixed in. Kris Bryant is an All-Star, Addison Russell is dazzling with the glove, and Kyle Schwarber has “Great Bambinoed” his way into the lineup by smashing and 8-for-19 clip in August with three home runs and eight RBIs. Chicago has taken the approach of “playing stupid” as they take on an important stretch of games. Their question mark is will the moment eventually get to big for the young stars?
Whether it is power hitting, power pitching, or power rookies, the Blue Jays, Mets, and Cubs have surged ahead in August. But with the finish line still on the horizon, will these three teams still be there at the end? One thing that these three teams all have in common is that they have re-energized their respective fan bases with their solid play. They are all relevant this late in the season for the first time in a long time. For different reasons, these teams have become very exciting to watch and they just may be peaking at the right time.
With the pennant chase taking shape, the field is position for a fantastic finish, place those bets.