Is it just me, or has this MLB season flown by? Wasn’t it just yesterday that Ian Happ homered on the very first pitch of the 2018 season?
And yet, here we are. Just ten days left in the regular season. The sun is setting on many teams’ 2018 seasons, but September baseball has not disappointed.
The AL Playoffs have pretty much been decided for a while now. We knew a long time ago that the Red Sox would win the East; it’s just a matter of time before they close it out over the Yankees. We knew the Indians would take care of business in the worst division in baseball. (Although I did foolishly pick the Twins to win the AL Central at the beginning of the season. Oops.) And what was once a very close AL West race is now looking like it will play out the way we expected, with the Astros now a comfortable four games ahead of the Athletics. Even the Wild Card is pretty much already set, with the Yankees and A’s in the first and second spots, respectively. Tampa Bay sits five-and-a-half games out of the second spot.
However, the National League races have been much closer, especially the one in the West. Here’s the breakdown of the races by division.
National League East
Breaking news: the team representing the East this year will not include Bryce Harper or Max Scherzer. Okay, it’s not that breaking. Washington’s season was lost a long time ago, and many were predicting that the Nationals would finally make it to the Fall Classic in what will likely be Bryce Harper’s final season in D.C. Rather, it is the Atlanta Braves who are atop the division, with a five-and-a-half game lead over the Phillies. The Phillies were on top, but slid into second place having gone 6-11 so far in September. Don’t close the book on this race yet, though; these two teams still have seven games left against each other. This one could come down to the wire.
National League Central
The Cubs have the best record in the National League, but as a Cubs fan, I can say that it sure doesn’t feel like it. The Cubs have been up and down all season, plagued by mediocre-at-best starting pitching and injury issues with key players. And yet, they’re still somehow in first place. The Brewers, who spent much of the start of the season in first, sit just two-and-a-half games back, and the Cardinals are at five-and-a-half out. The Cubs have taken some big time hits as of late. Closer Brandon Morrow has been out since mid-July and will miss the rest of the season due to an elbow injury. To make matters worse for the North Siders, Morrow’s replacement at closer, Pedro Strop, hit the ten-day disabled list last week with a hamstring strain. Meanwhile, the Brewers are 11-6 in September, taking four out of six games against the Cubs this month. If the Cubs are going to stay afloat, they need to play consistent baseball in games that matter while trying to keep everyone healthy. I try not to be the pessimistic fan, but I’m definitely worried.
National League West
Welcome to the wild, wild West. For much of the season, the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers have all been fighting for the top spot in the division. Unlike last year, where we all knew they would win the division by mid-August, the Dodgers have been somewhat underwhelming this year, struggling to keep up with Colorado and Arizona. However, they have dominated their division rivals in the last month, taking three out of four from the D-Backs and five out of six from the Rockies, propelling them into first place. They still have three more games against the Diamondbacks, who are now six games out of first after going 3-7 in their last ten. L.A. has a much easier final nine games that Colorado does: The Dodgers play three games each against the Padres, Diamondbacks, and Giants; the Rockies play three in Arizona before heading east for four against the Phillies and three against the Nationals to end the year. Both the Dodgers and Rockies are counting on Arizona to beat the other team in their respective series. Just like the other two divisions, the NL West is definitely still up for grabs.
Right now, the NL Wild Card is owned by the Central, with Milwaukee in first by three and St. Louis holding the second spot by a game-and-a-half over the Rockies. Don’t count the Phillies out yet either; they’re only five games out of the second spot. The only thing threatening the NL Central’s chance to hold three out of five playoff spots would be the Rockies getting hot again and overtaking the Cardinals- which, as a Cubs fan, I would not complain about.
I’m not quite ready to make any predictions on who I think will win in October, but I can predict that it’s going to be crazy. Buckle up folks. We’re in for an exciting Postseason.