The pennant ‘races’ in Major League Baseball remain very uninteresting as the teams still in contention prepare for their home stretches. The Chicago Cubs have already clinched the NL Central, the Washington Nationals have an eight-game lead in the East, while both the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers also lead their divisions handily. The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have a huge lead, however, with 13 games to go they have a very healthy five-game lead over San Francisco. Meanwhile Boston, in the AL East, are in a strong position too with a 3-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles.
The situation in the AL East is the only one that seems like it might get close. Three games is a lot to make up in two weeks, however, the Orioles do host the Red Sox for a four-game series to start this upcoming week. The O’s are 47-27 at home this season, the strongest home winning record in their division. They will need to take away at least three of four to make up ground on Boston, a development that would make for an amazing final stretch.
If the Toronto Blue Jays start winning some games consistently, then they could get back into the picture in the East as well. The Jays just split a four-game series with the Angels in Anaheim and next they head to Seattle for a three-game series. The results there have implications for Toronto in the AL East standings still, however, Toronto’s main focus might be the Wild Card game. From that point of view, the series against the Mariners is a crucial one for both Toronto and Seattle.
The Mariners, like the Detroit Tigers, are just two games back of Toronto for the 2nd Wild-Card spot. A sweep of the three-game series, either way, will change the complexion of that race drastically. However, the Tigers will be in Minnesota for a three-game series against the league-worst Twins. Detroit fans have to be thinking about sweeping that series and hoping that they gain games on all teams currently ahead of them.
The matters in the AL Wild Card game are complex, partly because the teams currently chasing, which also include Houston, New York, and maybe even Kansas City, appear to be chasing Toronto for the 2nd spot. However, if the Jays start winning some games, then it may yet be Baltimore or even Boston that the Wild-Card race is about.
Matters are less complex in the NL, partly due to the fact that the divisions are almost wrapped up. Heading into Monday the New York Mets hold the top Wild Card, the Giants hold the 2nd spot, and the St. Louis Cardinals are a game back of San Fran. The only other team remotely in the picture is the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, they are a full five games back of 2nd spot as the week starts.
San Fran has been so subpar for so long that it’s hard to have any confidence in them as they head to Los Angeles for a three-game set. Taking two out of three might help their chances in the Wild Card picture. However, only a sweep will inject some life into the NL West race. With the Dodgers hosting and sporting a strong 47-27 home-field record this season, the NL West could practically be wrapped up by Thursday morning.
The Mets have to love the scheduling situation at the moment as they prepare to host Atlanta. The Braves are the worst team in the NL, playing .389 ball year-to-date. Meanwhile, the Cardinals will be in Colorado, where the Rockies have a solid 40-35 record so far this season.
That clearly spells an edge for New York, a team that have gotten their act together of late. They have won seven of their last ten and, if they can win the one-game playoff, the Mets may yet prove a very difficult out in the post-season.
In the big picture Texas, Cleveland, Washington, and Chicago aren’t that far away from starting to think about setting their rotations up for the post-season. The other teams still have work to do and will need all available arms and bats. In the AL, the Jays look like the team ready to crumble while the Giants have been crumbling since returning from the All-Star break.