Into the Home Stretch

We’re into the last month of the baseball season, and the pennant races are heating up. With the first team (Cincinnati) having just been eliminated, it’s a good time to take a look at who’s in first and who’s likely to make the playoffs.

Things are clearest in the National League. Every team in first has a six game lead (at least, as of this writing), and the teams in second place don’t look strong enough to overtake them. Sure, it’s possible the Mets could collapse like they’ve done before, but even given that they’ll be carefully watching the work loads of their ace starters, there’s practically no chance that the near dumpster fire of the Nationals will get their act together in time to take any advantage of that. Look for the Mets to clinch before that final Mets-Nats series in Citi Field.

It must hurt to be the Pirates. In four of the other five divisions, they’d be in first place. But they have to play in the same division as the Cardinals, who seem a lock to win 100 games this year. And the Cubs have two teams to look up at in envy. At least the two of them get to play in that “wild card play-in” game…

The only thing really left to be decided in the NL is who will get home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs – the Dodgers or the Mets. The way things are likely to wind up, they’ll be facing each other. And given the results of their games against each other (the Mets have won 4 of the 7 games, outscoring the Dodgers by a total of 33-19), home field could be key. It’s “Kershaw and Grienke, then grab a hankie” vs. the Harvey-deGrom-Syndegaard Triumvirate. Should be fun!

There’s more to be decided in the American League. Only the Royals have run away with their division (who saw that coming?). The Blue Jays and Yankees are fighting it out in the AL East, and the Rangers are making the Astros look nervously over their shoulders. Right now, the wild card spots are still up for grabs, too. In addition to the second place teams in the East and West, the Twins, Angels, and Rays all have a good shot at sneaking in. I wonder what the tiebreaker scenarios look like…

Even if your team isn’t in the race, there are still things to be decided. Can Josh Donaldson keep up his torrid pace, and take the MVP from Mike Trout? Will the utter mess of the Nationals hurt Bryce Harper’s MVP chances? Will there be another no-hitter, triple play, inside-the-park home run, or steal of home? Will St. Louis Cardinals fans become even more insufferable? Why does Donald Trump get more popular the more offensive he gets? Who was that lady I saw you with last night?

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