Not quite the World Series or even remotely close, but the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East and the Washington Nationals in the NL East are the first teams in the 2014 MLB Season to clinch their division, which means they’ll definitely be in the playoffs, following wins over the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves respectively.
For the Orioles, this is the first time they’ve won the division since 1997. With 91 wins through the first 151 games, they are on pace to have their best season since that same year, finishing at 98-54, making it to the ALCS before losing to the Cleveland Indians. It’ll be the second time in three years they’ll be in the postseason, and are enjoying something of a Renaissance period compared to the 14-year drought they experiences from postseason play since 1998.
The Nationals are in a similar situation in terms of recently found success. One of Baseball’s worst franchises before and after leaving Montreal, the Nationals will also be making their second postseason appearance in three years. With an 87-53 record up to this point, it is likely to be the franchises second best regular season ever, only this time they hope to go a bit further than the divisional series, which they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012.
The Orioles got two home runs from Steve Pearce and Jimmy Paredes as they beat the Blue Jays 8-2. Toronto are 13.5 games behind them in the division, which hasn’t been much of a contest this year as the Yankees struggle to really bounce up from .500 (actually a bit too late now) and the Boston Red Sox couldn’t really show any consistency following their World Series victory last season. It was also a surprisingly solid start from Ubaldo Jimenez, improving to 5-9 this season, allowing just two runs in five innings while striking out six.
The Nationals didn’t have a slug-fest like the Orioles as they clinched their division, and also didn’t have the chance of doing it at home. However, a 3-0 win over the Braves helped them win the division for the second time in three years, getting an excellent start from Tanner Roark, giving up five hits and no walks in seven innings while striking out four. The Nationals got only six hits out of 32 at bats, but Ian Desmond hit a two-run homer and scored on a wild pitch by David Carpenter to seal the deal.
Just like the Orioles, it wasn’t really a contest in the NL East for the Nationals this season. The Braves fall to 12.5 games behind them, and they’re the best of the bunch, as the Philadelphia Phillies continue to crumble, the New York Mets don’t really know where they’re going and the Miami Marlins might be a year away from posing a more serious threat for a playoff spot and the division title.