The playoff picture within major league baseball looked quite clear back around the fourth of July. The season is closing in on September now and things are not so clear.
There were seven teams that separated themselves from the pack at the time. Two of the teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals, have struggled of late and would not be in the playoffs if the season ended on Tuesday.
Three more of the Super Seven, the New York Yankees, the Chicago Cubs, and the Houston Astros, have also cooled down, while showing weaknesses.
In the American League, the Boston Red Sox are running away in the East. The Yankees moved into a first-place tie with Boston on July 1 and had gone 20-17 since, while the Red Sox have gone 29-6.
Capturing a playoff berth in the American will not be easy this season. Six of the majors’ seven best records reside in the AL. Only five make the playoffs. The Red Sox are in. The Cleveland Indians are a lock since they play in the woeful AL Central. Thus, one from among the Yankees, Astros, Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners, all of whom are on pace for 93 or more wins, will be out. So there will be some September excitement in the AL after all.
Conversely, the National League is wide open. No NL team leads a division by more than two games, and eight clubs are either in a wild-card spot or within 6 1/2 games of a playoff berth.
It was thought by most that the Dodgers would come out of the NL. But their closer, Kenley Jansen, will be out a month due to an irregular heartbeat. After he was sidelined, Los Angeles lost its next four games due to late bullpen collapses. The addition of Manny Machado has not made much of an impact, and the Dodgers may not be playing in October.
Injuries and a lack of depth within their starting pitching may keep the Cubs out of post season play. Perennial MVP candidate Kris Bryant and closer Brandon Morrow need to return soon to keep Chicago in the playoff picture. The Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals are picking up games on the Cubs of late.
Back to the AL.
Houston was running away in the AL West. But by losing four straight at home over the weekend to the Seattle Mariners, the Astros revived Seattle and watched their lead on the Oakland A’s slimmed down to two games. Their lead on the Mariners is at 4 ½ games.
Meanwhile, Boston is taking on history as it is chasing the old time record of 114 wins in a season by the Yankees. The Red Sox, as I write this, are 86-35. They need to go 29-12 the rest of the way to break the record. I did the math and determined that they will set the mark if they keep up their current pace. I am going to close by making my World Series pick. Subject to change of course. I am going to stick with the Astros to repeat. Their pitching will slow down Boston’s offense. I think the Dodgers will finish strong and come out of the NL.