Three weeks: that’s all that’s left to decide how the MLB playoff field will look. Well, when it comes to the National League, it’s pretty obvious that the Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs are all going to the postseason party, and every other team will have to hear about it at work on Monday and wonder why they weren’t invited. (The Nationals are fun enough right? People like them, right? Guys?)
But there is still a battle to be waged in the NL as the Pittsburgh Pirates have clawed their way to within 2.5 games of the division (and league) leading St. Louis Cardinals. It seemed inevitable that the Cards would win the division and send the Pirates to their third straight Wild Card game, but an ill-timed downturn has the NL favorites in danger of losing home field advantage and entering the uncertainty of a one game play-in.
With three of the MLB’s six divisions still very much a race, we examine the odds of each team winning their respective crowns.
This division was all but wrapped up, until the Cardinals went 4-8 to start September and the Pirates seized the opening. The winner will likely get to stay home for the playoffs, while the loser will host a tough Cubs team in a winner-take-all game (and you can’t feel good about taking on Jake Arrieta in a one-game playoff). While that’s motivation enough, the Pirates also haven’t won a division title since 1992 and would love to hang a new banner on their barren walls.
The Cards pitching has been bad and the bats have cooled off in this rough stretch, but they have an easy schedule to finish the year, outside of one more series against the Cubs and Pirates. Pittsburgh has been boosted by the acquisition of J.A. Happ and return of A.J. Burnett, giving them a capable rotation to navigate a tough closing schedule. They should at least have a shot at claiming the division when they host the Cards in the final week of the season.
If the Yankees thought dropping three of four to the Jays at home was a death sentence, their execution was pushed back with the news that Toronto will be without shortstop Troy Tulowitzki possibly until the end of the regular season.
The Jays could struggle somewhat without Tulo’s defense in the lineup, but they will still be playing against the same weak AL East opponents as New York to close out the year. The only way New York can guarantee they close the gap is by sweeping a three-game series in Toronto next week. To have any hope of that, they’ll need other pitchers besides Masahiro Tanaka to wrangle that tough Toronto batting order.
The AL West is the tightest race remaining. Houston and Texas still had seven head-to-head matchups entering this week. The Rangers pitching rotation has rounded into form and actually looks deeper than Houston’s with Derek Holland pitching well in his return. This battle should come down to the final weekend, but whichever team falls short should find itself in the second AL Wild Card spot.
But don’t forget about the Angels. Still mathematically in the race despite a brutal August, L.A. will be in tough to reel in the two teams in front of them, despite having a home series against each, because their pitching rotation is just brutal.
(Photo Credit: Blackngold29 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.)
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