With today’s loss, the Cubs find themselves ever closer to mathematical elimination. Meanwhile, about half of the MLB clubs are vying for just 10 postseason spots with only 30 days to go until the regular season ends. The extra wild card spot for each league has made things slightly more interesting down the stretch. Some surprises, some disappointments, and of course, some where you’re just like “Well yeah, I kinda figured that.” Let’s take a look-see…
Looking at the Junior Circuit, we find the New York Yankees leading the East, the White Sox and Tigers duking it out in the Central, and the Texas Rangers again out in front of the West. The only real surprise is how well the White Sox have been playing, though they’ve been dealing with some injuries and subpar performances from a couple members of their starting rotation. The Tigers have been underachieving and have also been the victim of shoddy defense as there are two near-immobile planetoids at the infield corners and the outfield aside from Austin Jackson isn’t exactly the pinnacle of defensive efficiency. That is probably the race that should be the most contested down the stretch, but wait!
The Oakland A’s are just three games back of the Rangers and hold the first wild-card slot. The Baltimore Orioles have overachieved like madmen and are just a game behind the Yankees while holding the second wild-card. Within spitting distance of the second wild-card are the Tampa Bay Rays, the LA Angels and whichever of the White Sox or Tigers doesn’t actually win the division. The A’s were not expected to contend but they’ve gotten a solid debut season from Cuban export Yoenis Cespedes and their starting pitching. The O’s are even more surprising and have probably benefitted from the Theo Epstein-less self-destructing Boston Red Sox and the ever-injured Toronto Blue Jays floundering.
I expect the Yankees and Rangers to hold on, and the A’s to keep their hold of one of the wild cards. The Central crown and the other wild card are a bit close to call, but it would be great for the city of Baltimore if their team could get back to October.
Turning to the NL, we find the Washington Nationals leading the East, the Cincinnati Reds holding on to the Central lead, and the San Francisco Giants building a cushion in the West. The obvious surprise is the Nationals, who were expected to be good but not THAT good, having one of the best records in the majors. Despite Tim Lincecum‘s struggles and the Dodgers’ early supremacy, the Giants are actually starting to pull away. I think most pundits expected the Reds to run away with the division, though.
As for the wild cards, the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals are in control at the moment. However, the Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates are still within a couple games of the Cardinals. The Braves are still a good team with a solid rotation and good offense from soon-to-be-retired Chipper Jones, and the Cardinals don’t seem to be missing Albert Pujols too much (they actually led the division for a few weeks earlier in the season). I expect the division leaders to hold serve while the Braves keep the top wild card. The second wild card is up for grabs and could come down to whether the Dodgers can take advantage of the mega-trade for Adrian Gonzalez. The Pirates are slumping a lot and may even find it difficult to stay above .500 unless they figure things out fast.
You didn’t think we forgot, right?
The reverse standings as of this morning still have the Houston Astros with a solid lock of the top pick in next year’s draft. The Cubs actually pulled within 9.5 games of “first” with today’s loss and Houston’s win over the Pirates. The Twins play the White Sox and could be a huge spoiler as the South Siders attempt to hold off the Tigers. The Rockies also lost, but the Cubs have at least a 3.5 game cushion over Minnesota for now and four games over the Rockies. I guess we have to start hoping that the Astros keep winning, but a top 3 pick is very likely.
If you were wondering, the Cubs’ elimination number for the final wild card spot is now 7.