By Chris Ruddick
Besides playoff positioning and the American League Central race, there is little intrigue heading into the final week of the season.
Lately, the biggest question has been who is going to win the American League Cy Young Award. More specifically, can Kansas City right-hander Zack Greinke take home the honors?
Greinke may have ended that discussion all by himself on Tuesday, when he tossed another masterpiece against the Boston Red Sox, scattering two hits over six scoreless innings to lower his major league-leading earned run average to 2.08.
The big knock on Greinke is his 15-8 record. But, he leads the AL in shutouts (three), WHIP (1.059), hits/nine innings (7.57), batting average against (.228), on-base percentage (.272), and is second in complete games (six) and strikeouts (229).
Greinke is probably going to get two more starts and could wind up with 17 wins. The only other starter to win an AL Cy Young with less than 18 victories was another Kansas City hurler, David Cone, who was 16-5 in the strike- shortened 1994 campaign.
Plus, 16 of the 17 AL pitchers who have won the award despite at least eight losses also won 20 games - a plateau Greinke won't come close to reaching.
But how can that be a knock against him when the Royals are a pitiful 63-88?
Had he played for a contender, Greinke surely would have at least 20 wins. Consider that he allowed three runs or less in all of his eight no- decisions, giving up one or less in four of those outings, and surrendering just one run in two of his losses.
In fact, in his eight losses, the Royals have mustered just 15 runs. Not to mention, his 4.72 runs of support per start are the lowest in the league.
His main competition figures to come from Seattle righty Felix Hernandez, who is 16-5 with the second-best ERA in the AL at 2.45. King Felix has had a terrific season, but has been nowhere near as dominant as Greinke.
New York's CC Sabathia could win 20 games, but eight of those victories have come against last-place teams. Plus, his 3.31 ERA is more than a run higher than Greinke's
If I was voting, my vote would go to Greinke. Forget his whole back story for a second, he has been hands-down the best pitcher in the American League this season.
When the voting is done, I bet it won't even be close.
NO MORNEAU, NO PROBLEM FOR TWINS
Things looked pretty bleak for the Minnesota Twins heading into action on September 13. They were in the midst of a three-game losing streak, were in third place in the AL Central, and 5 1/2 games back of the division-leading Detroit Tigers.
As if things were not bad enough, the Twins learned that former AL MVP Justin Morneau would miss the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his lower back.
Something clicked, though. Because since that time, Minnesota has won eight of its last nine and has pulled within 2 1/2 games of the Tigers in the division.
Doing most of the damage for the Twins has been Morneau's replacement, Michael Cuddyer, who took home the most recent AL Player of the Week honors thanks in part to his big weekend against the Tigers.
Minnesota claimed two of three in that pivotal set, as Cuddyer drove in five runs in the two wins. In the nine games Morneau has been out, Cuddyer has driven in 15 runs.
You have to like the Twins' chances here. After they finish their set with the Chicago White Sox, they head to Kansas City for a three-game set, before visiting the Tigers again for three games. Minnesota then closes its season with what it hopes won't be the final series at the Metrodome, another three- gamer against the Royals.
Oh, by the way, they will likely face Greinke in both of those series against the Royals.