As the Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season begins to wind down, the hunt for October is beginning to heat up. With teams having just about 20 games left to make the final push for the playoffs, winning is becoming all the more important.
In the American League (AL) East division, the Baltimore Orioles have all but wrapped up first place. Sitting at 82-59, the Orioles have an 8.5 game lead on the second place New York Yankees. New York has battled injuries with their starting pitching, losing ace C.C. Sabathia (knee), Japanese rookie phenom Masahiro Tanaka (arm) and Ivan Nova (elbow) early in the season. Despite these injuries, the Yankees are just 4.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race.
In the AL Central, the Kansas City Royals have a record of 78-62, holding a slim two game lead on the Detroit Tigers. These two teams have battled back and forth all year. At the trade deadline, the Tigers solidified an already outstanding pitching staff by adding David Price in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tigers now boast each of the last three AL Cy Young winners with Price, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. If Detroit can manage to make it into the post season, they are definitely a team to watch.
The Los Angeles Angels are currently leading the AL West. With an MLB-best record of 86-55, Los Angeles is ahead of the Oakland Athletics by 6 games. The Angels’ offense, which is second in the league in runs scored, is lead by MVP candidate Mike Trout and slugger first baseman Albert Pujols. With a potent offense and a sturdy pitching staff, the Angels are quickly becoming the favorite to take home their first AL pennant since winning the World Series in 2002.
With the season coming to a close, the AL Wild Card race is very tight. Five teams are separated by just 4.5 games, with the Athletics tightening their hands on the extremely pivotal first spot. The Seattle Mariners, behind AL Cy Young favorite Felix Hernandez, lead the Tigers by 1.5 games for the second spot. The top two teams in each Wild Card race will face off in a one game playoff for the opportunity to advance to the divisional round. The Yankees and the Cleveland Indians are both still alive, as they both trail Seattle by 4.5 games.
The Washington Nationals lead the National League (NL) East by six games over the Atlanta Braves. Young superstar Bryce Harper leads the Nationals, who stand at 79-61. Despite an up and down year by ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg, Washington has received quality starting pitching from former Tiger Doug Fister (12-6). Washington hopes to make the playoffs for only the third time in team history.
The NL Central is lead by the 78-64 St. Louis Cardinals. The defending National League champions look to fend off the Milwaukee Brewers who have fallen into a late season slump, going 13-14 in August and have failed to impress fans. Look for the Cardinals to run away with this division.
The NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers, sitting at 80-62, hold a two game lead over the San Francisco Giants. With an ERA of 1.70, NL Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw leads a pitching staff that has been reliable all season. Young Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig and hot slugger Adrian Gonzalez steer a superstar lineup filled with strong bats. With Kershaw at the helm, look for the Dodgers to contend for their first World Series title since 1988.
The NL Wild Card race is the tightest race in baseball. The Giants are sitting firmly on top with a four game lead over the Brewers, Braves, and Pirates, who are separated by just .5 games.
Whichever two teams can prevail will participate in a one game playoff that will determine who advances to the NL divisional round.
Look for teams with deep starting pitching staffs begin to assert themselves late in the season. With every game being a must win for teams in playoff contention, having a starter on the mound each game that can command the strike zone is key. Whoever can survive the final regular season test will begin the road to a world championship on September 30th.