September To Remember: MLB Playoff Plot Thickening In Nearly Every Division
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Perhaps you remember several years ago when rock band Green Day released their hit album American Idiot (I happen to because it was the first one I ever bought). Anyway, one of the songs was titled “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” As the title suggests, the song yearns for the supposedly dreadful month to end and for October to begin.
Well, Billie Joe Armstrong must not be a huge baseball fan, because September on the diamond is epic.
Take this year for instance. Five of baseball’s six divisions are still pretty much up for grabs, as well as both Wild Card slots. This leaves six teams in the AL and seven in the NL which are scrambling for four playoff slots.
The AL West is the only division which I feel will not produce much drama in the final month of the regular season. The Texas Rangers currently are the only team in the division above .500 and hold an eight-game lead over second-place Oakland. Unless the A’s, or possibly Angels, can pull off a miracle, the division belongs to Texas.
The other West, however, is much different.
San Diego still sits atop the division at 76-59, but instead of standing tall, are now wobbling on one leg after losing 10 straight games, seven to teams inside the division. The Giants, meanwhile, are only 5-4 in that span but have managed to pull within a game of the slumping Padres. And don’t forget the Rockies, who have won 10 of their past 14 and are oh so notorious for late season surges (see 2007, 2009). In addition, all three teams still have a shot at the Wild Card as San Francisco and Colorado trail front runner Philadelphia by two- and five-and-a-half games respectively.
Moving east to America’s heartland, the usually weak Central divisions are finally producing some contenders. One of this year’s true feel good stories, the Reds currently own the best record in the National League and lead their division by seven games. However, it is hard to overestimate the Cards' potent offense, led by perhaps the best hitter in all of baseball, as well as their more than capable pitching. The Cards are also within five-and-a-half of the Phils in the Wild Card race.
Back East, the Braves and Phillies appear destined for a shootout as Atlanta currently hold the division by one game over Philadelphia, who in turn is leading the Wild Card. It will be interesting to see how this race turns out.
Finally, baseball’s most infamous division has three teams vying for it, with one of those teams having a much better shot at the Wild Card. As you may have guessed, the perennial contenders in the Big Apple are winning their division once again.
However, their New England rivals aren't the ones chasing them this time. Instead, the Rays are the ones who own the league's second-best record, trailing the Yanks by two-and-a-half games, and leading the Wild Card by a whopping seven games. Theoretically, Boston could still climb back in the race, but a 10-game division deficit to one team in the division and a seven-and-a-half game WC deficit to another is difficult to overcome at this point in the season.
With one month left in the season, virtually anything could happen. The Yanks could tumble, or a team that has been quiet all season like the Marlins could start winning like crazy and make the playoffs on the last day. If you ask me, the Yanks and Rays seem destined to make the postseason. Minnesota will probably hold off the streaking Sox in that race, which leaves the National League.
San Francisco has one of the best closers in baseball, solid starting pitching, and a lineup that has been better than expected the past few months. I see them overtaking the Pads pretty soon and holding them off the rest of the season to take their first NL West crown in seven years. The Reds should hold on in the NL Central, and just to shake things up, I am going with the Phils in the division and either Atlanta or Colorado for the Wild Card.
However, what's great about baseball is that you don't have to listen to my picks because there is a good chance they will not happen. And that is the beauty of baseball.
Wake me up when September ends? Sorry Green Day, but I don’t think so. If anything, wake me up when September starts because that is when you are prone to see the best ball of the season.
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