With one month left to go in the Major League Baseball season it seems appropriate to begin the speculation about final standings and playoff match ups. Divisional races are still very competitive with only two teams running away from the pack and both wild card races are tight. Start the slide show to figure out who will make it to October and ultimately if the Yankees repeat as Champions.
Can The Yankees Repeat?
The Yankees are playing their best baseball of the season, yet the Rays are right on their heels. The teams will play each other seven more times with season series at 6-5, in favor of the Rays. It's likely that the final games will be split 4-3. The Yankees remaining schedule is much tougher than Tampa's. The Yankees play divisional rivals Toronto and Boston, while the Rays play Seattle, Baltimore and Kansas City. This race will come down to the final series, with the Boston Red Sox denying the Yankees their seventeen east division title.
The Twins and White Sox are in a tight battle for the central division crown and with roughly the same schedule to finish the season. As with any playoff race, pitching will ultimately decide the winner. The Twins have a solid rotation with Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano leading the way and a team ERA under 3.90. While the White Sox rotation, while good, is not outstanding. Team ace, Mark Buehrle, has an ERA nearing 4.00, as does the rest of the team. The teams play three more times with the Twins leading the season series 10-5, expect the Twins to widen their lead during this series.
The Rangers are running away with the west division and no one is going to change that.
The wild card winner will come from the east division. The Yankees will barely lose the division to the Devil Rays but they will have no problem claiming the wild card.
The Braves and Phillies play six more times this season. The Braves lead the series 7-5 and with Bobby Cox in his final season, I expect the Braves to win one last division title for their surefire Hall of Fame manager.
The Reds have been on a roll since being swept by the St. Louis Cardinals in early August. Playing their best baseball of the season and adding electrifying rookie Aroldis Chapman to the bullpen, the Reds have all but locked up their first divisional title since 1995.
Everyone wondered when the Padres would hit a skid. The unlikely divisional leader has answered that question. However, the end of the season slide will not stop the Padres from taking the division. With the best pitching in baseball the Padres will bounce back and win the west.
The Phillies, despite a team batting average hovering near .250, are still in the hunt for a division title. The team has too much talent to miss the playoffs and they will ultimately claim the wild card.
The Rays are 4-2 against the Rangers this season, sweeping their most recent series in August. Cliff Lee has struggled for the Rangers and the Rays have allowed the fewest runs in the American League. I expect the Rays to win this series 3-1.
The Twins ran into the Yankees last year in the ALDS and were swept right out of the playoffs. The Yankees are 4-2 against the Twins this season and will be in a foul mood after squandering their divisional lead. The Yankees will sweep the Twins for the second straight season.
The Reds have struggled against the Phillies this season, going 2-5. However, the five losses have been decided by eight runs, including back-to-back 1-0 losses in July. The Reds offense is now on track, averaging over five runs a game in August. The Reds will win this series but it will be close, 3-2 in a thriller.
The San Diego Padres have as solid a three man rotation as any team in baseball - Matt Latos, Jon Garland and Clayton Richard. The Padres' bullpen is better than the Braves. The question is, "Can the Padres hit?" Look for Adrian Gonzalez to carry the Padres and for rookie Jason Heyward's power outage to continue. Padres win the series 3-1.
This series should be an instant classic. You have the young, upstart Tampa Bay Rays against the defending World Champion New York Yankees. After making the World Series in 2008, the Rays will not be shaken by the Bronx Bombers. Home field advantage will be critical in this series as the home team will win each game. The Rays will advance to their 2nd World Series winning the ALCS 4-3.
In an unlikely NLCS, the hard hitting Reds take on the lights out pitching of the Padres. The deciding factor of this series is that the Reds' pitching is better than the Padres' hitting. The Reds should roll past the Padres 4-1 and play in their first World Series since 1990.
The Reds and Rays will provide baseball fans with a fresh, new match up. Both teams are young and bring energy to the ball park. Expect the games to be high scoring. The Reds will be in uncharted territory and will likely drop the first two games in Tampa but will rebound to tie the series. However, the Rays pitching will be too much for the Big Red Machine as they Rays will win their first World Series four games to two.