As September looms, pennant races are beginning to heat up. Division and Wild Card positions are up for grabs in both leagues.
The Cardinals, with the additions of Julio Lugo, Mark DeRosa and Matt Holiday, have taken control of the National League Central with a commanding 10-game lead over the Chicago Cubs.
Behind the bat potential MVP Albert Pujols (.320 BA, 41 HRs, 110 RBI, .443 OBP) and the pitching of Cy Young candidates Chris Carpenter (14-3, 2.20 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .223 BAA) and Adam Wainwright (16-7, 2.47 ERA, 164 Ks), the Cardinals have posted a 20-6 record in the month of August and gained 9.5 games on Chicago.
The September/October schedule should play into the Cardinals favor with 18 games against sub .500 teams.
The big test will come September 11th through the 20th with a home stand against the Braves, Marlins, and Cubs. All will be making a push for October and playing with their hearts on their sleeves.
The Dodgers have held the first place position in the NL West since April.
Even with the sub-par year and 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers have played the NL best baseball all year.
Matt Kemp (.323 BA, 21 HRs, 85 RBI, 28 SBs) and Andre Either (27 HRs, 87 RBI, 261 Total Bases) have grown into their own and have become leaders, along with the solid play of veterans Orlando Hudson (30 Doubles) and Juan Pierre (.323, 23 SBs, .378 OBP)
Pitching is also a bright spot for Los Angeles.
An NL Best in ERA (3.52), Batting Average Against (.233), WHIP (1.26).
On the defensive side, Los Angeles is second to Pittsburgh in both least errors (60) and fielding percentage (.988).
Pitching and defense wins championships, and the Dodgers have both.
With an eight-game lead over Florida and Atlanta, The Phillies seem to have the NL East figured out for the third straight year unless they play like the New York Mets did the last two Septembers.
Ryan Howard is making another push for MVP with a team leading 37 HRs and 111 RBI. Shane Victorino (.305 BA, 31 Doubles, 153 Hits) and Chase Utley (.304 BA, 29 HRs, .423 OBP) have been hard-nosed players all year for the Fightin' Phils.
The Phillies have four position players with 25 or more homers going into September and if Jimmy Rollins (17 HRs) gets hot, he could be the fifth.
With the additions of Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez to round out their pitching staff and solid defense all year, October should be a place for the Phillies not only this year, but many years to come.
With 41 wins away from Citizen Bank Park, should make the defending champs tough to beat come October.
The NL Wild Card race is down to four teams. Rockies and Giants are tied for the lead with Florida and Atlanta, 3.5 games behind.
The Cubs (65-63) and Brewers (64-66) are 5.5 and 7.5 games behind, respectfully.
Colorado's impressive June (21-7) put them back in the thick of the NL West and Wild Card.
More impressive has been the Rockies pitching.
Jason Marquis' 14 wins and the staff posting a .257 batting average against after the All-Star break is turning heads throughout the NL.
Troy Tulowzski is making a bid for NL Comeback Player of the Year with his .284 BA, 24 HRs, 73 RBI.
The Giants are winning with the pure pitching of the "Big Three": Tim Lincecum (13-4, 2.33 ERA, 222 Ks), Matt Cain (12-4, 2.50 ERA) and Barry Zito (3.94 ERA, .247 BAA).
The Giants staff has over 1000 strikeouts and .238 BAA.
Pablo Sandoval (.333 BA, 21 HRs, 75 RBI, .383 OBP) is making a name for himself at third base in an already talented pool of National League third basemen. He's leading the team in most offensive categories.
If this team falls short, it will because of the lack of power and hitting.
The NL Wild Card might be decided by the September/October schedule.
The Giants could control their own dynasty September 11th through September 20th with a series against the Dodgers and Rockies at San Fran, then three on the road down the coast to LA.
The Rockies end the year with a three game set against the Dodgers.
As for the Marlins and Braves, 3.5 games is a lot of games to gain when you have 2 teams to jump that you don't play.
They only face each other three more times in late September and the Wild Card might be down to a two team race by then.
But stranger things have happened.
In the American League, the Yankees and Angels are hoping things are wrapped-up within their divisions in the coming month.
The Yankees post the Majors best record at an 82-48 clip, 45 of those wins at home.
Since the All-Star break the Yankees are 30-11, batting .291 and posting a 3.97 ERA.
The team's captain Derek Jeter (.335 BA, 175 Hits, 93 Runs, & a team leading 23 SBs) is playing MVP-type baseball, along with Mark Texeria (.284 BA, 272 Total Bases, 32 HRs, 101 RBI).
CC Sabathia has come into form down the stretch, leading the team in wins(15), ERA(3.56), and strikeouts(158).
With the Red Sox 6 games back, it could set the tone for the "new" Yankee Stadium with a clinching of the AL East against the Sox in late September.
As for the Angels, they are leading the AL West by five games over Texas.
Los Angeles is one of the most fundamental sound, best first to third team in all of the Majors.
They lead the Majors in hitting at .289 and are second to the Yankees in runs scored (736) and OBP (.353).
With injuries to the Torii Hunter and Vlad Guerrero during the season, Kendry Morales (.311 BA, 30 HRs, 94 RBI, 269 Total Bases) has stepped-up as the team's MVP
With the addition of Scott Kazmir to help bolster the pitching staff, the Angels should give many American League teams trouble in October.
The AL Central is just beating-up on each other. At the beginning of the season, predictions from experts of 82 wins winning the division might just fall into place.
Detroit (69-60) has by far the most talent with Miguel Cabarea (.335, 27 HRs, 82 RBI, .399 OBP) and Justin Verlander (15-7, 215 Ks) leading the way.
Minnesota (65-65) is 4.5 back of the Tigers and like the Angels play sound baseball all around.
Joe Mauer (.367, 149 H, 25 HRs, .435 OBP) and Justin Moreau ( 29 HRs, 96 RBI, 254 Total Bases) continue to drive this team towards October each season.
The Tigers and Twins hook-up seven times in September and October. This will be, by far, the most interesting division race to watch.
Let's not forgot the White Sox (64-67) who are six games back and play the Twins six time and Detroit six times. The Minnesota series starts today.
If Chicago can some how hear the callings of Manager Ozzie Gullien and General Manager Kenny Williams, they could be make a run for the pennant.
The AL Wild Card seems to be a race between two teams, Boston leading the pack and Texas 3.5 games back. The Rays are 5.5 back and might not have enough magic this year to pull this one out.
The Red Sox, as good as their record of 76-57 seems, have not played as good as ball as they should have.
They are middle of the pack in the AL in hitting and pitching. They are 15 games above .500 against their own division and are still six games back of the Yankees.
That's very odd and is stating that they don't win the games they are suppose to.
The Rangers (72-57) should give the Sox a run for their money this month. Everyone knew Texas could hit, but they are winning with pitching and defense.
Most important, made it through the "dog days" of August in the Texas heat.
Don't count the Rangers out in the AL West, yet. Them and the Angels match-up seven more times this month.
Those games could decide the West and Wild Card in the American League.
Whatever happens in the this month, it's going to be another great September baseball, leading to an even better October in 2009.
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