In my opinion, the final week in the Major League Baseball season is the best time of the year. So many teams are in the hunt, and there are many meaningful inter-division series going on.
So I have decided to look at every team in the hunt heading into the last week and a half and tell you what to watch for from these teams. Let's get started.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are currently playing their last game of a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox. The Rays won last night's game, but lost the opener of the series. The Rays currently lead the division by one game, but if the Red Sox win, they will pull into a virtual tie with the Rays for the division lead (Red Sox have played two more games than the Rays).
After the Red Sox, the Rays stay home and battle the Minnesota Twins for four games. The Rays will need to win at least two of those games to assure that they will stay ahead or tied with the Red Sox.
After the Twins, the Rays go on the road to face the Baltimore Orioles for four (including a doubleheader) and the Detroit Tigers for four. The Tigers will be the obviously tougher task, but the hardest part of this stretch could be the fact that they do not have an off day for the rest of the season.
They shouldn't worry about missing the playoffs, because the Twins are eight games back of them, but their main goal should be the division, which will be a tough task. I still think the Rays will pull the division off, but it will be difficult.
Boston Red Sox
As mentioned above, the Red Sox are currently playing their final game of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox are one game back, and a win tonight would pull them into a virtual tie with the Rays.
After the Rays, the Red Sox go to Toronto to play a three-game series against the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have had Boston's number this season, so this series may cause some trouble for the Sox.
After that, the Sox come back home for the rest of the season to face the Cleveland Indians for three, and the New York Yankees for three. Both series will be tough, which makes the Rays' attempt to win the division.
As said above, I do think the Rays will win the division, but the Red Sox shouldn't have any trouble at all winning the wild card.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox appear to be pulling away with this division, but you never know. They currently are playing their third game in a four-game series with the Yankees. The Yankees won the first game of the series, while the White Sox won the second game of the series.
After this series, they stay on the road an go to Kansas City to play the Royals in a three-game series. This appears to be an easy series for the White Sox, but then things get interesting.
They travel to Minnesota to play the Twins in a crucial three-game series. The Twins appear to be in a funk right now, but you never know what will happen when two divisional foes collide this late in the year.
After the Twins, the Sox come back home and finish the season against the Cleveland Indians. All in all, I do think the White Sox will hold on to the division and win it with a few days left in the season.
This Twins' ballclub appears to be reeling, and their playoff hopes are fading fast. It is pretty apparent that the wild card will come out of the East, so the Twins need to pick up the pace and play some good ball.
They are currently finishing a series against the Cleveland Indians. They head into Tampa for a four-game series this weekend, as mentioned above. After that, they come home to battle the Chicago White Sox and the Kansas City Royals. As I just said, that series against the White Sox will be crucial, but the Twins will likely need to sweep it to win the division.
If they can sweep it, they should be in good position to wrap the division up against the Royals. I don't think it will happen, but you never know.
Over the past few years, the Phillies have come on strong late in the year, and this year is no exception. The Mets are in a slump, and the Phillies are not. Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are tearing the cover off the ball, which is a great sign.
They are currently playing their second game in their series with the Atlanta Braves. The Phillies have not lost a game in Atlanta yet this season and are 11-2 against the Braves this season.
After this series, they head to Florida to play the Marlins for three games. That series should be a tough battle, like it always is with the Marlins. But after that series, the Phillies head home for the rest of the season and play the Braves and Washington Nationals for three games each.
They have a game off between the Braves and Nationals series, so they should have some good time to rest and think about the final series on the season.
The current division outlook has the Phillies leading the Mets by a half game, with the Mets having a game in hand. If the Mets pull into first place tonight, the worst position the Phillies can be in is a tie with the Brewers for the wild card.
Do I think the Phillies can pull the division off? I don't know, and I won't say, I don't want to jinx my team. So I'm not going to give you my take on who will win the East or the wild card.
New York Mets
Ah, the Mets. The Mets haven't been so amazing these past two Septembers, and I hope it continues. They are currently 7-6 this September and are only hitting .204. They've lost three in a row, and things don't look too good.
They are currently playing their third game in a four game series against the Washington Nationals. After Washington, the Mets head to Atlanta for a three-game series. After Atlanta, the Mets head home for the rest of the year, but they have a huge four-game set against the Cubs that could very well decide their fate.
The Cubs are definitely the best team in the National League, so the Mets may have some trouble there. If the Mets don't win two of those games, their division hopes are likely down the drain.
After the Cubs, they finish the year against the Florida Marlins. Remember, last year they finished with the Marlins, and that didn't turn out so well, so let's keep an eye on that series.
Besides the Cubs, their schedule does seem favorable, but it seemed favorable last year, so you never know. As I said above, I will not predict anything involving the division or wild card in fear of jinxing my Phillies, so I'll just say that this next week and a half will be very interesting.
The Brewers are an interesting team. Last season, I thought they should have fired Ned Yost, but they didn't. Instead, they did it with less than 15 games to go. Many don't agree with the move, but I love it. This Brewers team answers to certain events like this, and a firing of their manager should spark the team.
Will it be enough to win the wild card? Maybe, maybe not.
The Brewers are currently playing their second game in a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. After the Cubs, the Brew Crew heads to Cincinnati to play a three-game series with the Reds. They then come home to play three against Pittsburgh, and then three against the Cubs again.
Should the Brewers be worried about the rest of their schedule? Absolutely. They have five games remaining against the Cubs, and that's a big concern. Plus, the Reds don't go down easily, so that series should be a test.
With all that said, it looks like the Brewers aren't going to make the playoffs. They've lost five in a row, and as mentioned above, their schedule doesn't help. Their only hope is the wild card, and with the way the Brewers are playing, it looks unlikely they will be able to win that wild card. (Oops, did I just make a prediction in the wild card? Uh-oh...)
So there you have it; that is what I will be watching for in the last week and a half of the MLB season.
Some questions you might be thinking are:
"Why didn't you include the Angels or Cubs?"-Because they have nothing to play for, as simple as that.
"No love for the NL West?"-It's not that I have not love for the West, it's just I think the division is all but wrapped up. The Diamondbacks aren't playing well, and the Dodgers are. I just think that race is over.
If you have any other burning questions, leave them below, and I'll be sure to answer them.
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