Although it seems like September just got started, the season ends in two Sundays. This time in two weeks we’ll be talking about playoff rosters and breaking down wild cards. Here’s how things look, in concentric circles from division, to league to all of MLB.
AL WEST: Not much changed over the weekend, as both the A’s and Astros swept inferior position, but time is on the side of Houston. Barring total collapse, or a 12-0 run by the A’s, the Astros will walk to a division title, and may even clinch by Friday. Like the Astros, the A’s have some guys getting healthy. Yesterday, for instance, stud prospect Luzardo got the long man’s save (3 IP) for Sean Manea (6 IP), who has a WHIP of 0.67 and an ERA of 0.50 in three starts this month, after being out the whole year.
OTHER AL RACES:
Home field: the Astros are tied with the Yankees, but hold the tie-breaker, for the one seed. The one seed would play the winner of the WC game. The two seed have home field against Minnesota, who is 5 games back. The tough part of the Twins’ September is over (6-6 against Cleveland, Washington, and Boston), and now they have 12 games against also-rans. They’re probably too far back to make a serious run at even the two seed. They will end the season with 100 wins if they can go 9-3.
Two Seed: the same three teams fighting for home field are fighting for the two seed. Now is not the time for the Astros to get swept by the Rangers. Still, seven games against Trout-and-Ohtani-less Angels makes it almost inconceivable that Houston loses either the division or home-field in ALDS.
Wild Card:The wild card remains the three-team race that it’s been for some time. Boston never really got back into it. Oakland is 1.5 up on Tampa for the 4 seed, and 3 up on Cleveland (1.5 back of Tampa for the math haters). The Tribe has some inter-league weirdness with 3 against Philly and their final 3 against Washington, which may be in cruise mode (see below), but if not, good luck against Strassburg, Scherzer, and Corbin. Tampa has by far the toughest schedule (LAD , Boston , NYY , Toronto ). Like Houston, they only play 11 more games, and have three days off, so they can jigger their rotation.
Other Divisions: Yanks will clinch, perhaps Wednesday, and the Twins are up 4.5. Indians are on fumes, without Ramirez, and with the normally-filthy Carlos Carrasco’s return to the bullpen not panning out (9.39 ERA in in 7.2 IP), the Indians’s playoff chances rest on Tampa.
Division Races: Dodgers clinched before the All-Star break (not quite, but it seemed that way), and Atlanta has run away from Washington, and should clinch in a couple of days. All of the drama is in the NL Central, especially after the Hebrew Hammer crushed the home-team’s hopes with a grand slam in the 9th yesterday. St. Louis is 2 games up on the Cubs, and 3 on the Brewers, who’ve gone 9-1 amidst the loss of Yelich. The Cards lost 3 one-run games last week, and face down an ugly schedule, with the Nats (3), Cubs (7!), and D-Backs (3). There’s also just one game off. If they take care of Chicago, there won’t be much scoreboard watching. Otherwise, duck and cover.
Home Field: Dodgers should hold off the surging Braves, as they’re 4 games in the lead for the one seed. The three seed will go to the NL Central winner.
Wild Card: The Nationals have grabbed the bull by the horns and run with this race. After a mediocre first half, they went 16-3 from August 6th-Sept. 1st. stretch. They’re just 5-8 since then, but sit in the driver’s seat. Combined with Chicago’s solid play and the Brewers’s hot stretch, Washington is only 1.5 up on the 4 seed, and 2.5 up on the 2nd WC. Further, they play 14 in 14 days, including 5 against Philly next week. It’s those kind of series where a non-dumpster fire BP helps. About 85% of their pitching WAR comes from their top 4 starters.
The aforementioned Cubbies have 7 against the Cards, but otherwise face the Bucs and Reds. Still, it’s 13 games in 14 days. The Brewers cruise against SD (4), Pittsburgh (3), Cincy (3), and Colorado (3, but in Coors). The Mets (4 GB), Phillies (4.5 GB) and D-Backs (5.5 GB) are not only way back, but would have to leapfrog Milwaukee, who has the easiest schedule. Phils play 11 road games in 10 days against ATL, CLE, and WASH. They’re 4-7 in last 11 games. Glad you had Bryce during his peak though. Enjoy the next 12 years of that one! Mets have an easier slog (@ Colorado , @ Cinci , Miami , and closing with 3 against an Atlanta team with nothing to play for).
Conclusion: crazy and baseball frequently go together. It’s a fun time of year to scoreboard watch. Let’s get JV two wins on this home stand so he can get to 20, and treat the last week of the season like a ST start. Ditto for Cole.