“We have the chance to have the best record, and that’s the bottom line and that’s a good feeling that you can control that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco won their NL divisions. Detroit has wrapped up the AL Central, and Cabrera is in position to win the Triple Crown.
Cabrera has 44 home runs, one more than Texas’ Josh Hamilton. The Tigers star is hitting .331, seven points ahead of Angels rookie Mike Trout, and his 139 RBIs are 11 more than Hamilton’s total.
Cabrera has deflected attention of his achievement to his team’s success. There will be time to celebrate — in the meantime, there are still two divisions to be decided.
Shades of last year, sort of, when the Cardinals and Tampa Bay claimed wild-card spots on a thrilling final day, chasing the Braves and Boston from the postseason picture.
This time, the races are all about seeding. Division winners can avoid a dangerous all-or-nothing game for the wild card, something baseball added this year.
The Cardinals are aiming to duplicate their success last fall, when they parlayed a wild-card berth into the franchise’s 11th title, beating the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers to give manager Tony La Russa a fitting send-off.
No one seemed to mind that this year they’ll have to be clicking from Day 1 — or it’ll be over.
“A lot of clubs were in it at the end and it worked out for us,” team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “We need to go down there and win. We have the talent to go as far as our fortunes take us.”
Matheny named 16-game winner Kyle Lohse as the starter Friday against the Braves. He also could have gone with Adam Wainwright, bumped from the start in the regular-season finale Wednesday to save his arm for the postseason.
“What is there not to like about him? I mean, what more can he do?” Matheny said of Lohse. “It’s kind of lined up that way and we’ve had that in line for a while.”
Lohse got a strong endorsement from Carpenter, who was 4-0 in the postseason last fall including must-have wins over Phillies ace Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the NL Division Series and Game 7 over the Rangers.
“There’s no doubt about it, he’s been our most consistent guy all year,” Carpenter said. “I don’t think it’s been said enough because they might not think he’s an exciting guy — he doesn’t throw 95 miles an hour, doesn’t strike out 250 guys a year — but when he’s been healthy he’s been one of our best pitchers.
“He deserves this game, he deserves to go out there and take it on.”