MLB pennant races

MLB pennant races

MLB pennant races

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In the northern hemisphere, September marks the end of the summer proper and the start of cooler days leading into the autumn. With that also means the winding down of the baseball season for most teams and the culmination of the pennant races for a few. There is a slightly different format this year, which means there is a slightly different aspect to the races. There is a higher emphasis on winning the division outright, but more teams overall are in the hunt. Division-by-division, the races break down like so:

AL West

Teams contending: Rangers, A’s (4.0 games back on 1 September)
Head-to-head games remaining: 7

The A’s are on fire and could make the division close at the end of the season, but I think the Rangers will close it out. They have been playing such good baseball all year and they are just very tough to beat. Three of the head to head games are in Oakland are at the end of the season, but I doubt the A’s will be in a position to make that a winner-take-all series. It’s close enough that the Rangers cannot relax, however.

AL Central
Teams contending: White Sox, Tigers (2.0 GB)
Head-to-head games remaining: 6

The key will be whether the White Sox young starters can keep their good form up through the month of September. They’ve been a big surprise this year, but it’s not clear how they will react to the added pressure of September. My hunch is that they’ll start to slip up and Chicago will fade, but there are no guarantees. I expect it will stay close for the entire month, but I’m going with the Tigers to finish on top. Looks like possibly the best division race this year.

AL East
Teams contending: Yankees, Orioles (2.0 GB), Rays (4.5 GB)
Head-to-head games remaining: 6 (NYY v Bal), 6 (NYY v TB), 6 (Bal v TB)

The Rays are only barely still in the race; if they pull off something it will be remarkable. The main contest in the Yankees and Orioles. The Yankees had a big lead not too long ago, but could not put the race away and that lead has mostly evaporated. The key will be the half dozen head-to-head matchups left between them and Baltimore. If the Orioles can get a decent lead in those then I would think they could hold on for the title. But I think more likely they will remain three or four games (or so) out for most of the rest of the season. Always in the picture, but never making it really interesting.

AL Wild Card
If the season ended today the A’s would host the Orioles, but the Rays, Tigers and Angels are all within 3.5 games. This is a harder one to predict especially since the teams involved will change if the division leaders do. My hunch, however, is that it will stay A’s and Orioles. They’ve both been winning consistently in a way that the chasing teams simply have not.

NL West
Teams contending: Giants, Dodgers (4.5 GB)
Head-to-head games remaining: 6

The Dodgers can and do feel slightly cheated due to Melky Cabrera helping the Giants to their current lead. But the two teams still play each other six times and with the Dodgers trailing by 4.5 games they could rectify the matter themselves. But realistically they will have to win games elsewhere and the way they’ve gone about their recent games suggests they won’t. By the time the Giants come to LA to finish the year I expect they will have already clinched the division.

NL Central
Teams contending: Reds
Head-to-head games remaining: N/A

The only notable aspect in the NL Central is that the Houston Astros were so dire this season that they managed to be mathematically eliminated from all playoff contention in August. Otherwise there’s nothing to see here; the Reds can be pencilled in for the NLDS and for home advantage as well.

NL East
Teams contending: Nationals
Head-to-head games remaining: N/A

It was not a huge surprise this year that the Nationals did well; they had a very talented roster after years of early draft picks. Starting the month of September with the best record in baseball, however, was not quite in the script. The only battle for them will be against Cincinnati for the best record in the NL.

NL Wild Card
Another hard one to predict, with the Braves, Cardinals, Pirates and Dodgers all in the mix. Right now it’s Braves v Cardinals and the Braves are actually pretty safe. The Cardinals are anything but, however. They are actually level with Pittsburgh on losses and only 1.5 games ahead of the Dodgers. They have four games against the latter in September and there is every chance that it will effectively put one of those teams out of the race. The way the Pirates are playing, however, I doubt it will matter. I think the wild card playoff will be Braves v Pirates.

Bandon Decker is the author of the Forward Defensive, where he writes about cricket, baseball and occasionally other things.

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