Flurry of sweeps shakes up playoff races

Flurry of sweeps shakes up playoff races

Flurry of sweeps shakes up playoff races
Sweeping changes were made all across baseball Sunday.

Didn't hear about it? Well, don't freak out. There weren't any new rules put into place. There were, however, new developments in an ever-intriguing season.

Eight, count 'em, eight series sweeps were completed on the same day, and each one provided drama, momentum for the winner, and something else to stick under the brim of your cap as we march forward toward October.

The broomsmen were out in full force on this July day, dragging their implements across fields all over the Major Leagues.

The most electrifying sweep came in Oakland, where the Athletics not only dusted off the Yankees in four straight to climb within a half-game of second place in the American League West, but did it in walk-off fashion ... again. The A's won, 5-4, in 12 innings, and now have 11 walk-off wins this year, the most in the Majors, and eight such wins in their past 16 home victories.

"It definitely feels good to battle and be victorious against the best teams, on paper, in the game," said Coco Crisp, who delivered the walk-off hit Sunday. "You can look up and down a lot of lineups like Detroit, or the Angels, the teams with high payrolls. Obviously, they have high payrolls for a reason, because the players on the team deserve it. When we battle against those guys and come out with wins, it's definitely a great feeling."

The same sentiment was shared by the torrid Tigers, who swept a three-game set from their AL Central-rival White Sox with a 6-4 win on Sunday that featured the 299th and 300th career home runs by slugger Miguel Cabrera. The victory upped the Tigers' winning streak to five. Detroit has won 13 of its past 15 to take command of the division.

"We knew we'd play good at some point," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We're playing good right now, but we have to continue. I mean, it's only July 22."

Good point, skip, but don't let that discourage other Sunday sweepers from partying hard.

Take the Dodgers, who swept the Mets in New York and did it when they had to now that they're chasing the Giants from second place in the National League West.

This time, they broke open a nail-biter by scoring five in the 12th, and the celebration was on in honor of their first three-game road sweep of the Mets in 10 years.

"Everybody wanted -- as soon as Matt [Kemp] and Andre [Ethier] came back in the lineup [from the disabled list] -- for us to turn it back on," infielder Adam Kennedy said. "The reality of that is not good. Hopefully, we can get that feeling back now."

There were feelings all over the place. Feelings of joy. Feelings of disappointment.

In Cincinnati, the Reds were stoked on their three-game whitewash of the NL Central-rival Brewers, but Milwaukee might have to enter the upcoming non-waiver Trade Deadline as a result. Nevertheless, Reds starter Johnny Cueto was brilliant, winning his 12th game of the year in a 2-1 decision, and the Reds kept the pace in their division at a season-high 15 games above .500, having won 11 of its past 13.

They're not far ahead of the Pirates, however, and wouldn't you know it? The Bucs did some home sweeping of their own Sunday.

Riding the masterful pitching of Jeff Karstens, the magic season in Pittsburgh continued with a 3-0 victory over Miami and yet another three-game sweep. It was the fifth series sweep of the year at PNC Park, in fact. Not bad at all.

"So to come out here and see the crowds we're getting," Karstens said, "it definitely means a lot to me and to this clubhouse. And we're showing it with the way we're playing. We love it. We're playing hard for the city of Pittsburgh. It's what we want to do."

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays want to win the AL East. They're in a tough spot so far this year, but they did what they had to do Sunday, bashing Jon Lester and the Red Sox to the tune of a 15-7 win and a rare four-game sweep at Fenway Park.

"Our team has been able to bounce back," said Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, who had four RBIs. "It's pretty crazy."

Yep, that was a good word for Sunday. In St. Louis, the Cardinals beat the Cubs, 7-0, to sweep a series for the first time in a month, and in the heat of the desert, D-backs outfielder Jason Kubel stayed hot with another home run, keying an 8-2 Arizona win over Houston and another three-game sweep.

"We want to get above .500, it's very important to do that in this homestand," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "We have to keep pushing that way."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB and read his MLBlog, Youneverknow. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.