I love this time of the year when I get to talk about two types of interesting races, political and baseball, in competing posts! This post is about the baseball races, which looked pretty solid all of a couple weeks ago, but have started to really become tense for a few teams who stand on the cusp of making the playoffs.
Back on August 11th, I posted some analyses about the various NL and AL races. Here's an update:
1. The Texas Rangers will win the AL West. Big surprise. They were 8 games up on the Angels three weeks ago, and they're still 8 games up on Oakland at this point.
2. The Minnesota Twins lead the Chicago White Sox by 6.0 games, but they play each other in a three-game set kicking off today before finishing the season against other teams. It's a long shot that the White Sox could come back from this deficit, but still possible if the Twins choke down the stretch. That said, the Twins get to play Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City, Boston, and Toronto to round out the year, so I'm betting they don't lose a lot of games from here on out.
3. The New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays will each make the playoffs. All that's left to decide in the AL East races is who wins the division and who gets the Wild Card berth. Both teams are up on the 2nd place Boston Red Sox in both categories by 7.0-7.5 games, and they're not going to give up that lead. Currently as of this writing, Tampa Bay leads New York by 1/2 a game, but the pair get to play each other 6 more times before the season's end, so either one could win the division at this point. (Here's hoping it's the Rays!)
4. The Cincinnati Reds will win the NL Central with a 7.0 game lead over their heated rivals the St. Louis Cardinals. Earlier in the season (okay, just a couple/three weeks back) the two teams literally beat one another up over this race, and obviously the Reds whooped up on the Cards since.
5. Either the Atlanta Braves or the Philadelphia Phillies will win the NL East. The pair are separated by just a game with about 18 left to play. Considering they play six more games against one another before the end of the year, with the final three games in October being a showdown, this race is currently "too close to call." I can say that aside from one another, the Braves and the Phillies both play their division rival Mets, Nationals, and Marlins in every remaining game, so if ever there was a race built for a spoiler alert, this would be it.
6. In the yet-again-too-close-to-call NL West, the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Colorado Rockies all have a shot at making the playoffs. The first-place Padres and third-place Rockies are separated in the standings by a mere 2.5 games. This up from a 2.5-game lead by San Diego over San Fran and a 7.0-game lead by San Diego over Colorado three weeks ago. In that time frame, the Padres had a losing streak of ten straight games while the Rockies had a 10-game winning streak. The Giants, likewise, have held in a steady second place. It's a three way tossup right now, but the red-hot Rockies have to be considered a major threat to win it all even from third place with yet another steamrolling September run at the pennant.
So here's how it should look for the playoffs, keeping in mind that the team with the best record plays the Wild Card team, unless that team is from the same division. Then the 2nd place team plays the third place team or Wild Card team. These are just potential matchups based on my assumption that not a lot will change between now and October 4th.
NL Division Series:
Padres/Giants/Rockies (3rd place) vs. Phillies/Braves (1st place)
Braves/Phillies (Wild Card) vs. Reds (2nd place)
AL Division Series:
Rangers (3rd place) vs. Rays/Yankees (1st place)
Rays/Yankees (Wild Card) vs. Twins (2nd place)