5 September Scheduling Oddities That Could Shake Up Pennant Races
The final month of the Major League Baseball season is now upon us, and with that comes the thrilling pennant races in both leagues.
With all four wild-cards and four divisions still up for grabs, there is still plenty to play for for the 14 clubs who are still in playoff contention.
One of the factors that can affect those pennant races is the schedule.
Here is a look at five scheduling oddities that could affect how the pennant races shape up in September.
Atlanta Braves: All but 3 Games Against Sub-.500 Teams
The Atlanta Braves already have the National League East title in the bag, but they are still fighting for the best record in the National League, which would give them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Currently, the Braves have a four-game lead over Pittsburgh in that race, and that lead will be assisted by the very easy schedule Fredi Gonzalez's team faces in September.
The Braves play just one series during the final month of the season against an opponent that is over .500.
That one opponent is Washington, who they visit from September 16-18, a ballclub that has a record that sees them just one game over .500.
The other teams on Atlanta's schedule include Florida, the New York Mets, San Diego, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs.
Boston Red Sox: 18 of Final 20 Games in Division
One of the few trademarks about September scheduling is the intradivision matchups that help shape the pennant races in each league.
Having a ton of division matchups is a major characteristic of the Boston Red Sox's September schedule.
Eighteen of Boston's final 20 games come against division opponents in the thick of the American League East pennant race.
Boston will play a home-and-home with the Yankees and Orioles, while they have to travel to Tampa Bay for a three-game set and host Toronto for three games.
The only non-division team on the Boston schedule in the final 20 days? The Rockies, who host the Red Sox on September 24 and 25 at Coors Field.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 6-Game Road Trip to St. Louis, Texas
There is no doubt that the Pittsburgh Pirates will have to earn the NL Central title this September.
The toughest test of the Pirates' September schedule comes during a six-day stretch where they visit St. Louis and Arlington to play two playoff contenders.
The three-game set at Busch Stadium from September 6-8 against the Cardinals will have major division implications, while the three games in Arlington against Rangers will give Clint Hurdle and company a taste of a potential World Series matchup.
If the Pirates come out of that six-game stretch relatively unscathed, they will be rewarded with an 11-game home stand against the Cubs, Padres and Reds.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 10 of Final 13 Games on Road
The Los Angeles Dodgers have gone through a total resurgence this season and they are more than ready to take on the perils of October.
However, before they do that, the Dodgers will have to finish the season with 10 of their final 13 games on the road.
The Dodgers should have the NL West locked up by then, but they will be fighting for the very valuable home-field advantage spot.
During that 10-game road trip. Don Mattingly's team will visit Arizona, San Diego and San Francisco.
While that is not the hardest of schedules by any stretch of the imagination, it is a division lineup that will feature three teams that would love nothing more than to spoil the chances of the Dodgers hosting their first playoff game.
Tampa Bay Rays: 11 Home Games Against Playoff Contenders
The Tampa Bay Rays have a home record of 44-26 this season.
That record will be tested during the month of September as the Red Sox, Rangers and Orioles all come to Tropicana Field.
Those 11 games against the three playoff contenders are the only home games that Joe Maddon and company will have during the final month of the season.
With that being said, the Rays need to play with a playoff-like intensity in those games to ensure that they will be playing in October.
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