The final stretch: MLB playoff race heating up
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Baseball is now in the home stretch of the season. Now more than ever, teams are pushing for one of two wildcard spots in each league, hoping to qualify for the postseason. However, while the excitement and drive of the game is heating up, let’s briefly pause and look at what else is heating up in baseball.
The American League (AL) already has four teams advancing into the postseason. Two teams - the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros - clinched the AL Central and AL West Divisions respectively. The Boston Red Sox is advancing and trying to clinch the AL East with a four-game lead over the New York Yankees heading into the final
However, the Yankees have a strong 87-69 record in the first wildcard spot, five games ahead of the Minnesota Twins in the second spot. The Twins maintain a 4.5-game lead in front of the Los Angeles Angels and 5.5 ahead of the Texas Rangers (before the conclusion of games Monday night), which may be enough distance to hold onto the second and final Wild Card spot in the AL.
Playoff hopes were high for the Angels, but a six-game skid has put a damper on things as they seek their first playoff appearance since 2014. The Rangers look to get back to the playoffs again after not doing so the past two seasons.
Still the best team in the National League (NL) and the Major Leagues despite a surprising drop in performance, the LA Dodgers (99-57 going into Monday) recently clinched the NL West with a 4-2 win over the San Francisco Giants. The Washington Nationals clinched its division (NL East) as well. Those are the only NL teams that are for sure moving on into October so far.
Last year’s World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs, have not had as much success as in the past couple of seasons, but still looked poised to once again win the NL Central along with hopes of repeating their previous successes.
There is an interesting development in the Wild Card race as the Arizona Diamondbacks have a strong hold on the first Wild Card position, but oddly enough, the Diamond Backs have a better record (90-66 going into Monday) than the Cubs do (88-68).
Still intriguing, the other team holding the second wildcard spot is the Colorado Rockies. Assuming Colorado doesn’t collapse, three teams from the same division (NL West) would be advancing to the playoffs. The last time this occurred in the NL was in 2015. The St. Louis Cardinals hope not to be stranded for the second straight year coming up one game short.
With seven days left in the regular season, teams’ hopes for reaching the postseason is burning more than ever.