The extra playoff spot in Major League Baseball this season has thickened the races, with several teams well within October's reach despite taking mediocre records into the stretch run.
That's having an impact in the seats, as has some good weather, signs of life in the economy and other factors. MLB-wide attendance is up again, about 4 percent from 2011.
"There are more teams that have a shot, so it's given teams a lot of hope," said Lou DePaoli, chief marketing officer for the Pirates.
MLB's eight best season attendance totals have all come in the past eight years, and this one is on pace to keep that run going.
The major-league average of 31,516 through Monday was up 4.3 percent from 2011's final average of 30,229, according to STATS LLC, but remains below the pre-recession highs of 32,785 in 2007 and 32,528 the following year. The average usually declines in September, after schools are back in session.
The defending World Series champion Cardinals have been selling an average of 3,383 more tickets per game from last year, even after losing megastar Albert Pujols. They're on track to hit 3 million for the 14th time in the past 15 seasons.
The Rays have seen a boost, too, though a more modest one. They've drawn 1,213,768 fans through 59 home games, an average of 20,572. That's still the lowest total in the majors, but it's 6.4 percent more than last season's 19,327 per game through 59 games.
PETTITTE CAUTIOUS: Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte told ESPN that if he has another setback in his rehab, he might not pitch again this season. Pettitte, on the DL with a fractured left fibula, was shut down in late July because of swelling, and he estimated it cost him about 10 days of rehab. "Now we're probably going to be overcautious and figure out what we can do to make sure I'm back and what do I need to get ready," he told the website.
METS GET SHOPPACH: The Mets acquired former Rays C Kelly Shoppach from the Red Sox for a player to be named following a waiver claim. Shoppach, 32, is expected to start against left-handers.
ANGELS: Pitching coach Mike Butcher was suspended for one game after an argument Sunday over balls and strikes. Major League Baseball also fined Butcher an undisclosed amount.
ATHLETICS: 3B Brandon Inge went on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right shoulder. 3B Josh Donaldson was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento. … LHP Dallas Braden, who hasn't pitched in the majors since April 16, 2011, because of a torn anterior capsule muscle in his left shoulder, will have a second, exploratory surgery on the shoulder.
BLUE JAYS: Backup C Jeff Mathis agreed to a two-year, $3 million extension with a $1.5 million club option for 2015. Also, C Yorvit Torrealba agreed to a minor-league contract.
BRAVES: OF Matt Diaz, on the disabled list since July 21 with a right thumb contusion, will have season-ending surgery.
CARDINALS: LH reliever Brian Fuentes went on the restricted list after he told the team he needed time off for personal reasons.
D'BACKS: RH reliever Takashi Saito went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
MARINERS: 1B Mike Carp went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin muscle. 1B Justin Smoak was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.
ORIOLES: LHP Troy Patton went on the 15-day disabled list after he sprained his right ankle walking in a parking garage. Patton said he rolled the ankle, which he had hurt twice before this season.
PHILLIES: RHP Vance Worley said he will continue to pitch through a bone chip in his elbow and wait until the offseason to have surgery.