Braves, A's Clinch NL East, AL West - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Braves, A’s Clinch NL East, AL West

Two more divisions were clinched today. The Atlanta Braves clinched their first NL East title since 2005. However, they did so with a little help from the last place Miami Marlins who defeated the Washington Nationals 4-2. The Oakland A’s clinched the AL West also with a little help. Their assistance came from the Texas Rangers who fell 4-0 to the Kansas City Royals on a walk off grandslam home run by Justin Maxwell in the 10th inning. It is A’s second consecutive AL West title.

The Braves are two years removed from a September collapse much like the Boston Red Sox. Unlike the Red Sox, the Braves rebounded and attained one of two NL Wild Card spots only to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals over a controversial interpretation of the infield fly rule. 

While most baseball observers picked the Nats to repeat in the NL East, I went with the Braves. I liked them because of the acquistion of the Upton Brothers who joined Justin Heyward in the outfield. Although Justin Upton has hit 26 home runs, brother B.J. is hitting well below The Mendoza Line and Heyward has had an injury plagued season.

The backbone of the Braves offense was Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson, who was acquired from the D’Backs in the Justin Upton deal. All Johnson has done is lead the NL in batting. Rookie Evan Gattis contributed with 20 home runs.

While Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran and Paul Maholm shouldn’t be confused with Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Neagle/Avery, they have been a steady, dependable rotation that did not buckle when Tim Hudson sustained a season ending ankle injury. The Braves bullpen has been spectacular led by closer Craig Kimbrel who leads the NL with 49 saves.

The spectacular play of the Dodgers has overshadowed the efforts of the Braves. But unlike the Dodgers, the Braves have led their division from start to finish and are arguably the best overall team in the NL.

Their one weakness is that they are free swinging team and could be vulnerable to a team with strong pitching in the post-season. But this weakness has not held them back thus far in 2013.

Unlike the Braves, I did not think the A’s would repeat this season after emerging as the biggest surprise in MLB in 2012. The A’s and Rangers went back and forth all season in the AL West before Oakland pulled away this month. The A’s have gone 15-5 in September (and are leading the Minnesota Twins this afternoon) while the Rangers have gone 5-15 this month.

Not only have the Rangers fallen out of the AL West, but have been supplanted by the Cleveland Indians in the AL Wild Card race. I wonder if the Rangers will dismiss Ron Washington if they fail to make the post-season. 

Although Josh Reddick could not replicate his 30 home run season from a year ago, others filled in the breach. Both Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson have enjoyed career years. Most of this team is under 30, but 33-year old Coco Crisp hit a career high 21 home runs while playing Gold Glove calibre centerfield. As with Atlanta, I don’t think A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily are the second coming of Mulder-Hudson and Zito, but they get the job done. It also doesn’t hurt to have 40-year old Bartolo Colon contribute with 17 wins. Aussie Grant Balfour anchors a solid bullpen. 

The A’s might very well be playing their best baseball right now and it could take them far in the post-season.

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