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Saturday Sports: Baseball


Time for sports.


SIMON: Just over a month left of regular season baseball, then - what is it? - six, seven months of playoffs. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us. Morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you doing?

SIMON: I'm fine, thanks. Let's begin by giving props to the Boston Red Sox. They've been ahead all year. Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and the BoSox won their 90th game this week.

BRYANT: They won their 90th game this week. And they are statistically as good as they've been since 1912, which is the year that Fenway Park was built, the year they won the World Series when they beat the New York Giants. It's been a very long time since they've had a record this impressive.

And I'll tell you, Scott, this is my favorite time of the year. This is what I refer to as separation time, where you start to see the teams who've got championship aspirations. They start running to the finish line of the postseason. And then you also have those teams like you have in the National League. Like you have Atlanta and Philadelphia in the National League and teams like Oakland in the American League that weren't supposed to be that good this year. And suddenly, we're going to find out are they are they built for 120 games or if they're built for the whole way? September is going to be a lot of fun.

SIMON: And we got a note, in the AL East again, the Yankees are in second place.

BRYANT: It's crazy. It's funny about that because the Red Sox are so good this year. And they're running away with it. And they had a 10 game lead. And the lead is now down to 8 1/2 games. And people are wondering what's wrong with the Yankees? And they've got all these injuries and everything else. But the Yankees are on pace to win 100 games as well. So it's not as if the Yankees are having this terrible season. It's just that the Red Sox are really good. The Yankees are going to win probably a couple games over 100. And let's not forget that that team last year was within a few innings of going to the World Series.

SIMON: Yeah. And we should remind ourselves that's got nothing to do with the postseason, does it? There's an old tradition of good seasons and bad postseasons.

BRYANT: Well, I'll tell you, Scott, what's very funny about this is we talk about the Red Sox being as good as they've been. And I think you should celebrate how good they've been because, to me, the beauty of the baseball season is that you do play 162 games and you should be rewarded for that.

However, baseball has so many layers of playoffs now that the general managers refer to it as a crapshoot. But statistically, there have been 14 teams in the history of Major League Baseball that have played at least a 125-game season and won as much as the Red Sox are winning right now. But only five of them have won the World Series. So you're absolutely right. Once you get into October, it's a totally different game.

SIMON: I got to get to the NL Central race because it's a real race. The Cubs, the Cards and the Brew Crew are all within a few games. However, can I talk about what happened this week?

BRYANT: It's your show, of course you can. What happened this week?

SIMON: The Cubs get Cole Hamels - throws a complete game. The Nats send them Daniel Murphy. He hits a home run yesterday. This 25-year-old Cub rookie, David Bote, waited seven years to make the show, played for the Boise Hawks and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans along the way. He hit his second walk-off home run in two weeks for the Cubs. All five of his home runs this year have tied or won the game. I love baseball (laughter). That's what makes the game great.

BRYANT: Absolutely. And I have to say that there are a couple of other teams in that division that are fun as well. You think about the Milwaukee Brewers, which made a huge mistake last year. The Brewers had the Cubs. They had a lead in the - they were up by six, seven games last year at the All-Star break. They were very much full of themselves in terms of how well they were playing. But they didn't make a deal at the deadline.

They were one of those teams that wasn't quite built for the full season. And then, the Cubs caught them in September, and they didn't make the playoffs this year. They muscled up. They got Lorenzo Cain. They made some moves. They got Christian Yelich from the Marlins. And now, you know, they're now three games out. And so it looks like they're going to be tough enough to go with Chicago all the way. So I think they're trying to make up for that mistake of not making a deal last year. Maybe we'll see Milwaukee in the postseason in a battle with the Cubs going down the stretch.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN The Magazine, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.