So here we stand on the first day of the second half of the baseball season, Friday the 13th, and the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles -- franchises that have zero playoff appearances and 39 losing seasons out 42 combined seasons since 1998 -- hold playoff spots that are theirs to lose. Talk about spooky. It's the baseball equivalent of triple witching hour. But can it last?
There are no bigger stories to the second half than the possibility of playoff baseball in Washington (last witnessed in 1933), Pittsburgh (1992) and Baltimore (1997). Here, in order of October baseball being most likely to least likely, are the prospects for those three teams in the second half.
Also, the one-run wins are likely to go the other way more often. The Pirates are on a pace for 36 one-run wins -- that would be more one-run wins than for any team in the 19-season history of the six-division format.
And asking the bullpen to pitch to a 2.75 ERA all year is asking for too much. It's been 22 years since an AL bullpen threw that well over a full season -- since the pennant-winning Athletics of 1990 put up a 2.35 mark. (No wonder the rest of baseball copied Tony La Russa's invention of the specialized bullpen.)