Not only does the collapsing team have to come completely apart and allow their pursuer(s) to catch and pass them, but the pursuer(s) have to do their part by winning a few games.
And the Rays, Angels and Cardinals have made the lives of the Red Sox and Braves easier by losing repeatedly.
The Rays lost 3 of 4 games to the Yankees (and only won that one game because the Yankees were still in a division-clinching celebratory stupor and didn’t show up until they were down 13-0); the Rays also lost to the Blue Jays last night.
The Angels lost 2 of 3 to the Orioles before winning 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays; they lost to the woeful Athletics last night. (Maybe the Angels had gone—as a group—to see Moneyball and thought they were playing a team that was, y’know, good and the product of a, y’know, genius.)
The Cardinals suffered a defeat to the Mets on Thursday that, despite the “brave” (see what I did there?) face being put up by manager Tony LaRussa, can only be called devastating. If you blow a 6-2 ninth inning lead to a team like the Mets, you don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. The Cardinals lost 5-1 to the Cubs last night.
If a team is making a late and desperate run to the playoffs, they can’t be losing games with their aces on the mound and that’s exactly what happened to all three teams with David Price, Jered Weaver and Chris Carpenter all starting; Price and Weaver lost; Carpenter went 7 innings, allowed one run and got a no-decision.
The 1964 Cardinals were 6 1/2 games behind the Phillies with 13 games to play and went 10-3 as the Phillies, with 12 left to play, went 2-10. The Cardinals won just as much as the Phillies lost.
The 2007 Phillies were 7 games behind the Mets on September 12th with 17 left to play and went 13-4 to win the division by one game.
The Mets blew it, but the Phillies also did their part by winning their games.
The Red Sox were rained out against the Yankees last night and, unless they lose all the rest of their games, are going to the playoffs.
The Braves beat the Nationals and are now leading in the Wild Card by 3 with 5 to play; I don’t think even Fredi Gonzalez can manage his way out of that.
So both the Red Sox and Braves are going to the playoffs through little recent work of their own.
It’s not their fault.
It just is.