August 31, 2012
September is just hours way and that means that it’s crunch time in Major League Baseball. If last year’s crazy September was not enough, there may be more in store this time around. Last year we saw historic collapses by the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves. Both teams would miss the playoffs on the final day of the season. This season will go into October to find out who gets to the playoffs. This year will be the first season where there are two wild card teams in each league. The two wild card winners will battle it out in a one game playoff to determine who moves on to the Divisional Series.
Last season, we saw the Braves lead the NL Wild Card over the Cardinals by 10.5 games on August 26th. They would have a horrific September and find themselves out of the playoffs on the last day of the season. The Red Sox would have equally as bad of a collapse. Boston had a nine game lead in the AL Wild Card on September 4th and would find themselves out of the playoffs after losing their final game of the season against the Orioles.
Get ready folks for a wild finish in Major League Baseball this year. With the addition of a second wild card team in each league, things are only going to get crazier. Expect to possibly see a couple of ties in the wild card races as the races heat up. Not only will we see the tight wild card races get hot, but there are still good divisional races going on as teams try and fight for a division title. This is the first season where emphasis is put on winning the division with the possibility of missing out on advancing to the division series due to one game.
At the top of the American League wild card race is the surging Oakland Athletics and the surprising Baltimore Orioles. Both teams have shocked the world with their success this season. They both will enter September at the top of the race which nobody would have expected even at the All Star break. Right behind the Orioles are the Tampa Bay Rays, who are just a game and a half behind the Orioles for that second wild card spot. The Rays got Evan Longoria back in the lineup and will definitely make a run for one of those wild card spots. The Tigers sit three games back of that second wild card spot. They are also three games back of the AL Central lead. The Angels are hanging around sitting 3.5 games back for that second wild card spot. It is hard to see the A’s and Orioles fall from the lead the way they are playing right now. Both teams continue to surprise all of baseball with their play. Both rotations and lineups are nothing to write home about, but they have got the job done. Expect the Rays to make a push and take one of those wild card spots when the season is done.
In the NL wild card race, the main story has been the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates have put together a winning season so far for the first time since 1992. Pittsburgh is just a half game out of the second wild card spot. The Braves and Cardinals are the leaders right now, which does not come as much of a surprise as both were the leaders at the end of last season. The Braves look to avoid another historic collapse. The Cardinals and Pirates have been back and forth in the standings as one of them tries to get that second spot. While the Pirates have been an incredible story this season, it is hard to see them find a way in the playoffs. Right behind them are the Los Angeles Dodgers, who made the blockbuster trade to bring in Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett. Expect the Dodgers to come back and take that second wild card spot and battle the Braves in a one game playoff.
While the divisional races are not as tight, they are close and extremely important for these contenders. Winning the division is the only way to guarantee a spot in the ALDS and NLDS. Four of the six divisions have a second place team within four games of first place. In the AL East, the Orioles are creeping up on the Yankees just three games behind. They play them seven more times this season with the first of the seven coming tonight. The Rays sit in third place just 4.5 behind the Bronx Bombers. In the AL Central, the Tigers trail the White Sox by three games. The teams meet each other for seven more games with the first of the seven coming tonight as well. That division can go either way depending on who wins the seven games against each other. The A’s who lead the wild card are just 4 games behind the surging Rangers. Barring a bad September, expect Oakland to find their way into a one game playoff.
In the NL East, the Braves trail the Nationals by 5.5 games. The Nationals have exceeded everyone’s observations in 2012. They have held onto that first place spot and do not seem to be slowing down. In the NL Central, the Reds have first place well in their hands holding an 8.5 game lead over the Cardinals. The Reds have the best bullpen in baseball and have the best record in baseball right now. Their pitching will lead them to a divisional title this year and a good chance at a National League title. Finally, the NL West will definitely be an exciting finish. The Dodgers are just 4 games back of the Giants, but have made a big splash in the trade market to make them the favorites. The two teams will play each other six more times with three of them coming to end the season. That series in Los Angeles at the beginning of October could determine who plays in mid to late October.
It is going to be one hell of a final month in baseball as teams fight for division leads and for that one game playoff in the wild card. With the shenanigans we have seen in years past in September, anything could happen this year. Anyone can win it all this year.
AL Central-White Sox
AL Wild Card-Athletics, Tigers
NL Wild Card-Braves, Dodgers
World Series-Rangers over Dodgers in 7