As the summer that appears to have never arrived comes to an end, so too does the MLB season. Most of the teams in the playoff race are giving their younger players the chance to shine at the highest level for experience (or for a tryout next season), while another handful of teams fight until the end for a spot in the playoffs.
The American League (AL) and National League (NL) both have the top teams from each division as well as two wild-card teams making the playoffs. Three of the six divisions are all but clinched.
Baltimore Orioles have separated themselves from the AL East, while a post all-star run has given the Los Angeles Angels a clear path for the AL West. The NL East has been a one way race for a while now, as the Washington Nationals will regain their division title.
The only division still tight in the AL remains the Central. There’s a two-team race between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. The St. Louis Cardinals are trying to run away from the other NL Central teams, but the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers have a lot on the line and are hanging on by a thread. Then there’s the NL West: a no-surprise race between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
That being said, the AL Wild Card will be a race between six teams whereas the NL is witnessing fierce competition between its four teams.
In the AL, the final two spots come down to the Tigers, Royals (one of two will win the AL Central), Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees.
It’s fair to say that some of these teams did not get the best of schedules to finish the season, and will have to leave their fate within the hands of teams out of the playoff picture. The Athletics, Tigers and Royals seem to have won the best schedules. Their schedules include teams like the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, along with teams on the edge of the postseason.
The Mariners’ final two weeks include an eleven game road trip and a three game home stand to finish the season. That home stand is against the hot Angels team.
The Blue Jays struggled to find consistency throughout the season, and now deal with a tough schedule just to make the post- season. They face off against the division-leading Orioles six times and have to play in New York – where it seems they never win.
The Indians and Yankees have very “so-so” schedules. The Indians enjoy a seven game road trip against below average teams, yet still have to face the Royals at home. The Yankees get to stay within their division, which means more well- matched competition as well as higher stakes.
Over in the NL: the Giants, Pirates, Brewers and Braves all battle for just two spots.
The Giants and Brewers have the easiest remaining two weeks, as the Giants stay within their division. This means they only see the Dodgers once, and then enjoy an easy schedule against the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres.
On the Brewers side, they still get to enjoy two more off days before the season is complete. They also determine their own fate as they face the Cardinals and Pirates, two teams ahead of them – getting a chance to enjoy a one-series each versus against the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs.
The Braves have to pick up some wins against the Nationals and Pirates, but also get games versus the Phillies and New York Mets, and the Pirates are in the same boat. Along with the series against the Braves, they determine their fate against the Brewers. Included in their schedule are two easy series against the Red Sox and Reds.
Every team in the playoff picture is looking down their schedule. They know if it’s going to be a grind, or if they lucked out. However, one thing is for sure, base- ball is a funny game. No matter how easy of a schedule, anything could happen. That’s what makes September baseball all that much more enjoyable.
AL Wild-Card prediction: Royals and Mariners (Tigers win Central division)
NL Wild-Card prediction: Giants and Pirates