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With 50 Games Left Till Playoffs, Few MLB Teams Out Of Contention


It might be the best invention the world has ever seen or maybe, actually, the worst. I'm talking about the app that lets you watch any baseball game you want to watch any time. I cannot imagine the hours of productivity I've lost because of this thing. I know many of you out there know what I'm talking about. With only 50 games or so left before the Major League Baseball playoffs, the temptation is only going to grow. So we've brought in NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman to talk baseball. Tom, are you an addict like me or no?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: No, no apps, but I'm here to talk about it.

GREENE: And it is not too early to talk about the pennant races, so size things up for us. We got a lot of teams in this thing.

GOLDMAN: (Laughing) Maybe a little too early to mention the word pennant. But yes, we have a bunch of teams that should make the remaining seven weeks of the regular season a lot of fun for a lot of fans. Now, Baltimore is first in the American League East. It's the division leader with the biggest lead, but that's only five games over the New York Yankees and Toronto. Every other division is tighter. And what helps make this exciting is the second wild-card team - that started with the 2012 season. It gives more teams a shot at the postseason. So if you look at the standings right now, David, there are only three or four teams that are seriously at a contention.

GREENE: And they are?

GOLDMAN: Well, I would say it would be Houston, Texas, Colorado - sorry guys.

GREENE: Who's surprising you?

GOLDMAN: A lot - I mentioned Baltimore. The O's are leading a division that's been dominated by New York, Boston, Tampa Bay. Boston is a surprise in that the Red Sox - remember them? They won the World Series last year. Now in the last place in the AL East. And if they stay that way, the last three years will have been worst to first, back to worst. Bostonians' heads will be spinning. Milwaukee hasn't made the playoffs since 2011. And now the Brewers are leading the perennially great St. Louis Cardinals by a slim margin in the National League Central. And then I'd like to mention Oakland - continues to have the best record in the majors. The A's success isn't a surprise. They won the division the past two seasons. But what is a surprise, perhaps, is the way Oakland has kind of shoved all of its chips into the middle. The A's made these two big, recent trades for pitching. They got ace Jon Lester from the Red Sox last week and that's given Oakland, really, a World-Series-caliber rotation. Lester, by the way, really hasn't missed a beat since coming from Boston.

GREENE: So other players who are catching your attention?

GOLDMAN: You know, LA Dodgers' pitcher Clayton Kershaw, of course. He could be headed for his third Cy Young Award in the last four years. Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox - he is having an amazing rookie season. He's on pace to be the first rookie to hit at least 40 home runs and 40 doubles in a season. But, David, I think a personal favorite is Houston's second baseman Jose Altuve. He is tied for first in batting average in the American League. He leads the American League in stolen bases. He's the major league leader in hits and he's 5 foot 5.


GOLDMAN: He looks like an 8-year-old out there. He inspired the website howmanyaltuves.com - the distance from home plate to the pitcher's mound, 11.61 Altuves. Oh, the height of the Eiffel Tower - 182 Altuves.

GREENE: (Laughter) That's great. You don't need to be tall to play baseball. I love it.

GOLDMAN: No, he's a little guy. But a huge force in the game and probably for a long time. He's only 24.

GREENE: And Tom, what about Bryce Harper, the star Washington Nationals player, who is certainly getting a lot of headlines in this city?

GOLDMAN: What about him? All the wrong headlines up until yesterday, when he hit a walk-off home run to beat the New York Mets - couldn't have timed it better. I mean, Bryce Harper has had an injury. He's had his hustle questioned by his manager. Some media people were saying maybe he should be sent to the minors. But Bryce Harper made a big statement yesterday against the Mets.

GREENE: Yeah, I saw his interview afterwards. He's been known as kind of being a hot shot. And he said I'm glad my hair looks good on this day, when I'm getting so much attention - so Bryce Harper. Well, Tom, I'm glad your hair looks good. Tom Goldman, sports correspondent, nice talking to you.

GOLDMAN: Good to talk to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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