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Day 14: National League = Best League

August 22, 2010

Just about every thing that could possibly be at stake in the National League is still up for grabs.  Divisions, Wild Card, and especially the (now it means something to us) best record in the league for home field throughout the playoffs.  Even if you’re following a division leader, you’re still watching everyone else.  I think the best part about the end of any regular season is “scoreboard-watching”; keeping the other live games in your peripheral vision while attmeptiong to stay attentive to the contest in front of you.

NL East: Braves & Phillies separated by 2.5 games, 6 head-to-head matchups remaining including three to end the season in Atlanta.

NL Central:  3.5 game difference between Cincinnati & St. Louis; 3 head-to-head games left, an early September series at Busch Stadium

NL West: San Diego starting to pull away from the Giants, lead by 5 games.  However, SEVEN direct matchups remain including a four-game set at Petco and a season-ending series in San Francisco.

Wild Card: All of the teams mentioned above are in competition for the final spot.  Philly currently holds advantage, with SF a game back and St. Louis 2 behind.

Best Record in the League: The current division leaders are beginning to distance themselves from the Wild Card contenders, but due to the competitiveness of the NL and the league’s victory in the All-Star Game, it’s possible that a team could win home field advantage throughout the playoffs with fewer than 95 wins this season.  Distance between the division leaders with the best record (Padres at 73-49) and the worst (Cincinnati at 71-52) is only 2.5 games with almost 35 games left in the season.

The AL races are notably thin:  Yankees vs. Rays; winner likely gets home field through ALCS, loser gets Wild Card.  No true urgency.

This week’s theme in the English Premier League: Flipping the script.

Blackpool goes from a 4-0 win in their opener to a 6-0 loss at Arsenal after going a man down in the opening minutes.  Aston Villa seemed to be on firm ground following last week’s impressive win vs. West Ham, only to transfer their top player James Milner to Manchester City mid-week, culminating in a 6-0 loss today to newly-promoted Newcastle United.  Wigan rebounded from their embarassing 4-0 loss to Blackpool with…an embarassing 6-0 home loss to Chelsea.

Game of the week, bar none, Fulham vs. Manchester United.  Tied at 1-1 with 6 minutes left in regulation time, Fulham defender Brede Hangeland concedes an own goal to make it 2-1 United.  Two minutes later, United are awarded a penalty kick after a questionable intentional handball call.  The kick was stopped by keeper David Stockdale to keep Fulham within a goal.  In the last minute before injury time, Hangeland earns retribution by knocking in the tying goal off a corner kick to earn a point in the standings.  It’s strange to see a single team clear-cut ahead of the pack after only two weeks, but Chelsea is the only club to win both of their first two games, and they’ve done so with a goal differential of +12.  Hopefully someone catches up otherwise it could be a very droll Premiership race.

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