MLB Week 25: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups

Koji Uehara

Sep 11, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (19) reacts and claps his hands after he pitched the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 7-3. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Forget the NFL. There is a long season ahead. There are 14 more weeks of the regular season and things are just getting started. Meanwhile, the MLB regular season is down to its final two weeks. There are divisional and wild card races that are coming down to the wire. This is exactly what MLB had in mind when adding the second wild card team last year. That is one of the major things to watch for this week as the season reaches its climax.

Tickets to October – We were all on clinch watch last week, but no one was able to quite punch their ticket to October. But that is sure to change this week. The Red Sox, Braves, and Dodgers all lead the way, with magic numbers of four to guarantee themselves a division title. The Athletics, with a 6.5-game lead in the A.L. West, have a magic number of eight to wrap up the division, but that drops to seven for them to earn at least a wild card berth. The Tigers could theoretically clinch the A.L. Central this week, too, as their magic number is nine. The N.L Central won’t be tied up this week, but a couple of their teams could earn postseason spots. The Pirates and Cardinals are tied in first with 87 wins and each has a magic number of six to clinch at least a wild card spot. The Reds could also earn one this week as their wild card magic number is at nine over the Nationals.

Late-Game Perfection – Quick. When was the last time Red Sox closer Koji Uehara allowed a baserunner? That would be August 17th. Uehara has been perfect in 11 appearances since, which has spanned 37 batters. That’s a 12 1/3-inning perfect game spread out over the course of a month. He’s been nothing short of incredible. His season ERA now stands at 1.06 and his WHIP is a ridiculous 0.56. His .126 BAA and .163 OBP-allowed would both be single-season records for a reliever. He hasn’t allowed an earned run since June 30th. If he keeps this up, Uehara could be setting a record or two this week. With his 37-consecutive batters retired, he has already set a Red Sox record in that category. With five more outs, he will break Bobby Jenks‘ record for a reliever and, with nine more, he will eclipse Mark Buehrle‘s major league record.

The Fate of an Ace – Because they’re the Mets, nothing comes easily. And this week, they’ll find out more about the potential future of their young ace, Matt Harvey. After turning in an incredible season, Harvey was shut down late last month because of a UCL tear. The question has since become whether he would need Tommy John surgery. A clearer picture will emerge on Tuesday, as the Mets will release more information about Harvey’s visit with Dr. James Andrews. If Andrews recommends the surgery, there is every possibility Harvey won’t see the mound again at all next year. It’s also possible it can be healed with rest and rehab. While a decision may not be made immediately, we should all have a better idea about whether the Mets will already be behind the 8-ball for next year.

Matchups of the Week – This week is all about wild card races. And the American League race, in particular, is about to get even more interesting than it already is. While the Rangers and Rays continue their plunge into the danger zone, four teams are within 3.5 games of them and are nipping at their heels. The best news for the Indians, Orioles, Yankees, and Royals is that one of those two leaders is guaranteed to lose in each of the next four days. The two teams will beat each other up during a huge four-game series in Tampa. The Indians and Royals will also do the same during a three-game set. By the end of the week, it’s hard to believe all six teams will still be in contention. Meanwhile, the Pirates and Reds will play three which could play a role in the N.L. Central race, but could also end up eliminating the Nationals from playoff contention, too.

Series of the Week

Indians-Royals (Monday-Wednesday), Rangers-Rays (Monday-Thursday), Dodgers-Diamondbacks (Monday-Thursday), Braves-Nationals (Tuesday-Wednesday), Orioles-Red Sox (Tuesday-Thursday), Reds-Pirates (Friday-Sunday), Rangers-Royals (Friday-Sunday), Orioles-Rays (Friday-Monday)

Pitching Duels of the Week

Monday – Matt Garza-Alex Cobb

Tuesday – Yusmeiro Petit-Zack Wheeler, Zack Greinke-Patrick Corbin

Wednesday – Alex Wood-Ross Ohlendorf, Wei-Yin Chen-Jake Peavy, Derek Holland-Chris Archer, Adam Wainwright-Tyler Chatwood, Hisashi Iwakuma-Justin Verlander

Thursday – Chris Tillman-John Lackey, Yu Darvish-Matt Moore

Friday – Mat Latos-Francisco Liriano

Saturday – Miguel Gonzalez-Alex Cobb, Homer Bailey-A.J. Burnett

Sunday – Chris Sale-Anibal Sanchez, Bronson Arroyo-Jeff Locke

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Tony Consiglio is a lifelong baseball fan and has worked for television and radio stations throughout New England.