If you look at today's date, you'll notice that it is almost time to change the calendar to October. September is almost gone and October is creeping. This could only mean one thing: That's right, the Major League Baseball Playoffs are right around the corner. This is the final week of the MLB regular season, and quite frankly, the most exciting week of baseball. There are roughly six to seven games remaining for most teams and there are several division and wild card races that still need to be settled, as there are every season.
Let's begin in the American League East division. This has been a two team battle since August. The Tampa Bay Rays hold a half game lead in the division over the slumping Yankees. The Yankees have six games remaining and the Rays have seven. If the two teams end up tied after next Sunday's regular season finale, the Rays would be awarded the division title because they hold the advantage in head-to-head meetings 10-8. The odds are in favor of the Rays taking the division crown because they have the easier road. The Rays play three games vs. the Orioles at home and four at Kansas City. Meanwhile, the Yankees have to face division foes the Blue Jays and Red Sox, both on the road. This race is sure to go down to the wire.
In the National League West, the San Diego Padres squandered a division lead in which they held for practically the entire season. They now find themselves a half game out of the lead with the San Francisco Giants holding the slim margin. This had been a three team race for most of the month of September, however the Colorado Rockies have been slumping recently and now have fallen back in the division making this a race between solely the Padres and Giants. A three game series between the two in San Francisco this upcoming weekend will almost undoubtedly decide who gets the division and a playoff berth.
There is one more race that has been heating up for quite some time now. This, of course, is the National League Wild Card race. This too used to be a three team race, however the team in the mile high city (the Rockies) has fallen further and almost out of contention making the wild card race legitimately between the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres. Since the Braves are one loss away from losing the NL East division to the Philadelphia Phillies, they are ultimately focusing on a wild card berth as the only way to enter the playoffs. The Padres on the other hand, have the ability to win their division, or clinch a wild card berth. They would take either one at this point.
In recent years, it seems that one of the division or wild card races goes down to either the final game of the regular season, or it has to come to a one game playoff where the winner enters the playoffs and the loser goes home. This is part of the reason why this one week in Major League Baseball is one of the most thrilling and exciting of all. If you recall, the AL Central was forced to hold a one game playoff in two consecutive seasons (a day after the regular season had ended) to determine who moves on and who goes home. In 2008, the White Sox and Twins were tied after the regular season finale, so they played a one game playoff in Chicago to determine the AL Central winner. Chicago won, clinching the division and the Twins were left on the outside looking in. Last year, the same exact scenario occurred. However, it was the Twins this time who made an unbelievable run to catch the Detroit Tigers and tie them in the standings on the last game of the season. The one game playoff between the two was held in Minnesota and the Twins completed an unlikely comeback to take the AL Central division title.
What are the chances that we see a one game playoff somewhere again this season? These nail-bitters between division rivals and league foes towards the last game of the season are absolutely great for the game of baseball. It is remarkable that sometimes a winner in a division or wild card cannot be determined after 162 games. It makes for great excitement and passion for America's past time.