The baseball season is in its home stretch, and though some teams are wrapping up division titles, there are still several postseason spots up for grabs. The race for October is boiling on both coasts, as teams vie for division crowns and wild card slots. Who will play on and who will be looking to hit the links in the first week of the postseason? Itâ€™s time to size up the competition.
Starting on the west coast, the American League West is all but final. The Texas Rangers hold a commanding seven-game lead over the Oakland Athletics and an 8.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Itâ€™s only a formality to declare them the division winners. Thereâ€™s no question they will play on; whatâ€™s left to ask is whether theyâ€™ll be facing the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays in the first round.
The National League West is the perfect contrast. Three teamsâ€”the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giantsâ€”all have an excellent shot of taking the division. The Giants currently have a 0.5-game lead over the Friars and a 2.5-game lead over the Rockies. However, the Rockies are in the midst of a scorching September thanks to Troy Tulowitzkiâ€™s torrid play, as he has 14 homers this month. A crucial three-game series between the Rockies and Giants could make the difference. With their offense and pitching, Colorado may have the edge.
One central title is already decided and the other nearly there. The Minnesota Twins stiff-armed Manny Ramirez and the Chicago White Sox in a recent three-game sweep in the Windy City. Ramirez has not been able to help the Pale Hose catch fire since his trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and instead of gaining on the Twinkies, the White Sox lost any hope of dousing themselves with champagne when the Twins clinched on Tuesday.
In the senior circuit, though the St. Louis Cardinals held a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds as recently as Aug. 13, they recently fell off a cliff, as they now stand eight games behind Cincinnati. First baseman Albert Pujols and his mighty bat will not be enough to save the team.
The AL East, no stranger to dogfights for the title, is neck-and-neck, with the Yankees and Rays only a whisperâ€™s length apart. As it stands now, the Yankees hold a 2.5-game lead over the Rays, and neither team is particularly hot. A four-game head-to-head set that ends tonight has helped the Yankees grab some breathing room. However, the Rays do have a much softer schedule to end the season than the Bombers, so they still have a solid chance at the division crown.
After spending the majority of the season looking up to the Atlanta Braves in the standings, the Philadelphia Phillies have surged to a five-game lead in the NL East. The Phils have been aided by numerous player returns from injury and ace Roy Halladayâ€™s sterling starts. The Bravos, on the other hand, have lost outstanding third baseman Chipper Jones for the remainder of the season but still sport a strong rotation.
In the junior circuit, itâ€™s assured the wild card is coming out of the East. Due to a tough slate and a shaky rotation, the Yankees seem more likely to win the wild card than the Rays. The wild card race in the NL is much tighter. The Braves have a one-game lead over the Padres and a three-game lead over the Rockies.
The Giants have great pitching but no real offense, and with the Rockies surging and looking more and more like they will take over the NL West, itâ€™s reasonable to guess that the Braves will capture the final postseason spot in Bobby Coxâ€™s final hurrah.