Five months gone, 18 teams done …
Yes, including the Yankees.
But not the Dodgers or Diamondbacks.
As Andy Pettitte pointed out in the final hours before September, “We're looking for a miracle here,” and we thought miracles came included in a $210 million payroll.
How we got here…
Teams of August
The Chicago Cubs led the National League in scoring during August.
Chicago Cubs (20-8): The Cubs' only losing month was March, when they played one game. After a ratty couple months in the later innings, Lou Piniella did get his bullpen back in August. Their offense – behind huge months from Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto and Mark DeRosa – led the NL in scoring, as it did in April. They ought to bank the August wins; they finish September with 16 of 22 games on the road.
Milwaukee Brewers (20-7): Ned Yost's club looks all grown up. Last August, the Brewers lost 18 games and finished two games behind the Cubs. A year later, they almost scored with the Cubs, and, more importantly, pitched better than any team in baseball. Starters' ERA: 2.62. Bullpen ERA: 2.67. Jeff Suppan, CC Sabathia and David Bush won 14 games between them and Salomon Torres saved six.
Tampa Bay Rays (21-7): Yup, still here, still whippin' up on the big boys. Gone: The rickety July, when they staggered into the All-Star break on a seven-game losing streak, when they were outscored and outplayed and generally looking on their way out. Not only are the Rays hitting better than ever (even without Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria for most of the month), but they're still pitching. Their team ERA for August was higher than only the Twins and the Blue Jays in the AL.
Houston Astros (21-9): GM Ed Wade surprised everyone by being a buyer at the trading deadline. It only netted him Randy Wolf, and Carlos Lee (finger) hasn't played since Aug. 9, but the Astros came out hot and stayed that way. In the process, they beat the Mets five times in seven games and swept the Cardinals to conclude the month. The Astros won't be going to the playoffs, but their fingerprints are on two races.
Boston Red Sox (18-9): This is actually pretty remarkable. If not for the Rays, the story would be the Red Sox burying the Yankees despite injuries to Josh Beckett, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and the trade that sent Manny Ramirez to L.A. But, 18 wins weren't enough to stay with the Rays. So, instead, the Red Sox are trying to hold off the Twins in the wild-card race. For the month, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis each batted better than .350 and drove in at least 20 runs, Jed Lowrie has been a stud filling in for Lowell at third base and Jason Bay has done a reasonable Manny impersonation. As it turns out, they played .667 ball for a month and lost 2½ games.
Cleveland Indians (18-10): The disappointing Indians showed some fight in a late-month, 10-game winning streak. They've gone without Sabathia, Casey Blake, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Jake Westbrook, and Fausto Carmona still isn't stringing together quality starts. Grady Sizemore had a big month and became a 30-30 man for the first time.
New York Mets (18-11): If the Mets don't win the East, it'll be their relievers that shut down Shea Stadium for good. In fact, maybe the demolition men got ahead of themselves and detonated the bullpen a couple months early. Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and David Wright had 20-plus RBI months. More good news: On the eve of September, Jose Reyes is still playing hard and producing.
They're glad it's September (and, in many cases, almost over)
New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez struck out 30 times in August.
New York Yankees (13-14): The Yankees became all the more average in August, the team ERA more than 5, the offense being outscored by every team in the AL East. When they really needed Alex Rodriguez, he batted .240 and struck out 30 – 30! – times. Hideki Matsui came off the DL and hit .179. Derek Jeter batted .358, but had three – three! – extra-base hits. Melky Cabrera hit .115 and was exiled to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Andy Pettitte won one game. The bullpen ERA was 5.58. Tick-tick-tick …
Los Angeles Dodgers (13-16): How, exactly, does this happen? How does a team add Manny Ramirez basically for free, have him bat .415 with nine home runs, and, for a month, get worse? Well, Jonathan Broxton blows a couple saves, Greg Maddux looks his age, Chan Ho Park becomes Chan Ho Park again, Clayton Kershaw looks like he's in over his head, Nomar Garciaparra doesn't hit Angel Berroa's weight, Russell Martin wears down again, and Matt Kemp's on-base percentage falls to Juan Pierre depths. Ned Colletti's job would appear to rest on how September goes.
Arizona Diamondbacks (13-15): You know, everybody talks about the potential trauma of having to face Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Randy Johnson in a short series. Well, the Padres – maybe the worst team in baseball – just won three games in a row started by those guys. Think the Cubs care about Webb, Haren and Johnson? And the Diamondbacks' bullpen had a worse ERA than the Mets' bullpen did in August.
Florida Marlins (11-17): It was fun while it lasted. Fortunately, the Marlins weren't quite good enough to be broken up by ownership over the coming winter. So, they'll be back next season, the starting pitching will be healthier and the prospects will be a little further along. This will be a good team again.
Detroit Tigers (11-17): The Tigers never did show up. They had one winning month (a 19-8 June). The rest was a malaise of age and injury, of half-hearted at-bats, horrendous starting pitching and worse relief pitching. Remember when they were trying to think of ways to add seats to Comerica Park to satisfy, you know, the demand? Well, never mind.
Oakland Athletics (10-20): It took a while, but the A's finally became the A's we thought they'd be. That is, the worst offensive team in baseball. The A's batted .217 in August, when their on-base percentage was .283. You know what's bad? They hit as many home runs (28) as the Red Sox did for the month, and scored 90 fewer runs.
Atlanta Braves (9-20): Some people picked the Braves to go to the World Series. OK, I did. But, that was before one bullet took out John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson. Jeff Francouer must have been standing nearby, too, because our guy Frenchy just dropped a .204 August batting average on a season that was awful from Day 1. August ERA: 6.04, worst in the NL.
Monthly awards (with August stats)
Milwaukee Brewers starter CC Sabathia shined in August with a 5-0 record and a 1.12 ERA.
1. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs. .305 BA, 6 HR, 27 RBI.
2. Manny Ramirez, Dodgers. .415 BA, .508 OBP, 9 HR, 25 RBI.
3. Ty Wigginton, Astros. .379 BA, 12 HR, 26 RBI.
AL Rookie player: Jed Lowrie, Red Sox. .284 BA, 1 HR, 24 RBI.
AL Rookie pitcher: Glen Perkins, Twins. 4-0, 3.31 ERA.
NL Rookie player: Geovany Soto, Cubs. .355 BA, 3 HR, 21 RBI.
NL Rookie pitcher: Chris Perez, Cardinals. 6 saves, 0.00 ERA.
Legs. Some of August's lowest batting averages belonged to these guys: Jeff Mathis (.098), John Buck (.116), Jesus Flores (.181), Dioner Navarro (.194) and Ivan Rodriguez (.196). All of them are catchers.
Baseball immortality. I admire the (misguided) pluck in the Pittsburgh press box, and Ned Yost can save the haughtiness, but that was a no-hitter Sabathia threw on Sunday.
SoCal. Casey Kotchman in his first month in Atlanta: .180 BA, 5 RBI, no home runs.
With knee surgery on tap for Jeff Kent, it's uncertain what his future holds.
Livan Hernandez in Minnesota.
Brandon Morrow as a big-league reliever.
Richie Sexson in New York.
Jeff Kent, possibly, in L.A. Or anywhere. His 40-year-old left knee is scheduled for surgery Tuesday. How it could end up: .289 lifetime batting average, 376 home runs, 1,516 RBI, 1 MVP award. This will be a must-see Hall-of-Fame speech.
Greg Maddux in San Diego.
Mark Kotsay in Atlanta.
David Eckstein in Toronto.
Darkness, my old friend. Jerry Manuel, channeling Willie Randolph, reports after two late-month home losses to the Astros, “We're still in a good spot.”
Livan Hernandez in Colorado.
Francisco Liriano, back from Rochester.
Brandon Morrow as a minor-league starter.
Richie Sexson trying to win a job in spring training.
Chris Davis. The big fella in Texas had a funky month – .228 BA, 34 strikeouts, 4 home runs – but he looks legit.
Greg Maddux in L.A.
Colorado Rockies. Six back.
Mark Kotsay in Boston.
David Eckstein in Arizona.
Why we won't forget August
Manny kept his hair. Most of it.
Aug. 4: Prince pummels Parra.
Joba Chamberlain's shoulder stiffens. So, coincidentally, does Hank Steinbrenner's neck.
Oakland Athletics rookie Brad Ziegler tossed 39 1/3 scoreless innings to start his career. On Aug. 14, he gave up his first run.
Aug. 5: Prince apologizes.
Aug. 6: Parra determines it's safe to return to dugout.
Aug. 11: D'backs try to match the Manny move: They get Adam Dunn.
Aug. 14: Brad Ziegler gives up a run, after 39 1/3 scoreless to start career.
Aug. 17: Joe Maddon has Josh Hamilton intentionally walked with the bases loaded. “He very easily could have hit a grand slam there,” Maddon explains. Rays win.
Aug. 20: Hideki Irabu arrested in Japan after reportedly downing 20 beers, getting into it with a bartender and failing to cover first base.
Aug. 22: Derek Jeter gets hit No. 2,500.
Aug. 25: Francisco Rodriguez saves his 50th.
Aug. 26: Mark Cuban makes first cut in Cubs sale.
Aug. 28: Replay machines crank up in three cities.
Cristian Guzman hits for the cycle.
Why we should try
Doug Eddings hearts A.J. Pierzynski.
Aug. 6: Rays' outfielder B.J. Upton benched for failing to run out a ground ball the night before.
Aug. 16: Upton benched for not running hard.
Aug. 18: Upton dogs it on basepaths again.
Aug. 19: Carl Yastrzemski has triple bypass surgery, declines Upton offer of organ donation.
Aug. 21: Tom Glavine goes in for elbow surgery, doctor throws in shoulder for free.
Aug. 26: Jose Guillen restrained from going after a spectator in Kansas City. The good news: There's a spectator in Kansas City.
Aug. 31: Carlos Zambrano has a tired arm, is scratched from start against Phillies. Beer sales spike in Wrigleyville.