Major League Baseball's Push to the Playoffs
Well the Boys of Summer are closing out their seasons and the race is on to see who will still be playing in the playoffs. October 1st marks the last day of the regular season with 12 divisional games scheduled. Some will make a difference in the final standings and some will not. Here is a breakdown of how each Division is shaping up for their final push to the playoffs.
American League East
The Boston Red Sox's are currently leading the AL East and appear to be the team to beat. The Yankees are only three games back with 12 games remaining, however Sunday neither team seemed to be too motivated to make a move and create some distance from the other as they both lost, however they both made up for it winning on Monday. The Red Sox's magic number is 10, so while there is a chance for New York to make a move they better get with it soon or their time will run out.
The Yankees are very much alive in the American League Wild Card race leading the American League by five games.
American League Central
The champagne is flying in Cleveland as the Indians captured the Central Division while ending their winning streak at 22 games and losing to the Kansas City Royals 4 to 3 last Friday. Regardless, all it took for Cleveland was for the Minnesota Twins to lose to the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday 7-2 and the Indians clinched their second consecutive division title in as many years. The celebration for capturing the division however, didn't take place until after Sunday's game where the Tribe beat the Royals 3-2. The Indians are the hottest team in baseball having won 24 of their last 25 games. With twelve games left I fully expect them to be a 100 game winner and the team to contend with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs.
The Minnesota Twins are out of the Central Division race but are trying to hang on to their playoff lives in the Wild Card race sitting in the number two spot. The Twins helped their cause with a big win Sunday over the Toronto Blue Jays 13 to 7, but then lost to the NY Yankees 2 to 1 on Monday. Minnesota can't get too comfortable as the Los Angeles Angels are only a game and a half back with 12 games to go.
American League West
The Houston Astros are flying high in the AL West and, like the Indians, have captured their division with their Sunday win over Seattle 7 to 1. Their last division title was with the National League in 2001. Houston moved to the American League in 2013 to even up the two leagues with fifteen teams apiece.
The Los Angeles Angels are very much in the hunt for a Wild Card spot with thirteen games remaining, however, six of those thirteen games are against the AL Central Division Champs (Indians) and the AL West Division Champs (Astros). The Angels lost their game Sunday with the Rangers 3 to 1 but picked up a half game when the Twins lost to the Yankees Monday. The Angels are just one and a half games back of the Twins in the AL Wild Card chase.
American League Wild Card
The Wild Card Race is always one of the highlights in Major League Baseball. The Wild Card Race is a nice name for the losers bracket, for lack of a better term. It culminates with a one game play-in to have the opportunity to play the best team in the American League. While playing the best is certainly not a pleasant thought this time of year, anything can happen during a short series. Think of the 2014 Kansas City Royals!
The American League still has ten teams vying for the coveted two Wild Card spots. The NY Yankees, have the top spot with a 5 game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the number two spot. However, the LA Angels have a shot, being only a game and a half back as do the Seattle Mariners at four games back. Kansas City has faded along with their withering Bull Pen and Texas has lost 7 of their last 9 games and are vectoring out of range for any post season heroics. As for the rest, it could be anybody's guess.
National League East
About the only thing functioning in Washington are the Nationals who were the first major league team to punch their ticket to the playoffs with a win a week ago Sunday over the Philadelphia Phillies 3 to 2. It was just a matter of time and when the Marlins lost the same day it was official. Following their Division Title celebration the Nationals promptly lost 4 out of 6 games avoiding a Dodger's sweep at home Sunday with a 7 to 1 victory.
The Miami Marlins were hoping to sneak into the second spot of the Wild Card race but lost the series to the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 that have the same ambition. With 12 games remaining it doesn't look good for the Marlins as their Wild Card elimination number is 1.
National League Central
The Chicago Cubs who finally erased every curse known in baseball with their World Series win last season are now trying to hang on and win the NL Central over the Milwaukee Brewers and return to the post season for the third straight year. To do that they have to keep winning which they did Sunday closing out a three game sweep of St. Louis beating the Cardinals 4 to 3. That takes the Cubs win Streak to 6 games and their Magic Number to 10.
The Milwaukee Brewers are three and a half games behind the Cubs and just two games back of the Colorado Rockies for the second spot in the NL Wild Card. The Brewers have won 8 of their last 10 games, but with only twelve games left they still have to manage a four game series with the Cubs and a three game series with the Cardinals who are just two and a half games behind the Brewers in the National League Wild Card Race.
National League West
The team to beat in the Major Leagues this year is the Los Angeles Dodgers who have already clinched a playoff berth and are just waiting to be named the NL West Division Champion. Even though they have been in a slump losing 17 of their last 22 games, they have won their last 4 out of 6, have a Magic Number of 3 and should still have a 100 game season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, while having an outside chance at the Division Crown, have a great shot at the Wild Card race as they hold the top spot and a four and a half game lead over the Colorado Rockies with just 11 games to go.
National League Wild Card
The Arizona Diamondbacks have won 5 out of their last 11 games and hold a four and a half game lead in the Wild Card Race over the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies are only two games in front of the Brewers and four and a half games in front of the Cardinals. The Rockies have a rough road ahead of them as they will end their season with a three game series with the Dodgers in Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, will be having a three game series with the Royals in Kansas City. The Wild Card race will go down to the last game in the National League and don't be surprised for a tie or two with the appropriate play-in games.
The Play-Off Push
If I could give any MLB team advice right now it would be, "just focus on your own team and win ball games!" It doesn't matter what every other team is doing or not doing, just make sure your team is winning games! The reason is simple, the playoff games are all determined by the win column. Who you play and home field advantage is all determined by how many wins you have. For example, the AL Wildcard winner will play the team with the most wins in the American League. Only two wins separate the Cleveland Indians and the Houston Astros right now, so wins are important! It used to be the All-Star game winner would determine home field advantage for the World Series. No Longer! Wins determine home field advantage. By now, if you are an MLB team you should get the point - Win, Win, Win!
The regular season will come to an end Sunday, October 1st, with all fifteen games being played from a shotgun start at 3:05 p.m. Eastern Time. Should there need be any regular season tiebreaker games that would take place on Monday, October 2nd and would be televised exclusively by ESPN. The American League Wild Card Game will be on Tuesday, October 3rd, also televised by ESPN. The following day, the National League Wild Card Game will be televised exclusively by TBS.
Both AL Division Series are scheduled to begin on Thursday, October 5th. Both League Division Series games, two NL Division Series openers and two AL Division Series Game two contests, will be held on Friday, October 6th. Overall, the Division Series are scheduled to run from Thursday, October 5th, to the following Thursday, October 12th, with potential Game Five's on Wednesday, October 11th (ALDS) and Thursday, October 12th (NLDS). FSI or the MLB Network will cover the AL Division Series games and TBS will cover all NL Division Series games.
The AL Championship Series will begin on Friday, October 13th and will be televised by FOX or FS1. The NL Championship Series will begin on Saturday, October 14th and will be televised on TBS. Any potential Game Seven's are scheduled for Saturday, October 21st (ALCS) and Sunday, October 22nd (NLCS).
Game One of the 2017 World Series is scheduled for Tuesday, October 24th, and the best-of-seven series will change venue for Game Three, Friday, October 27th. Scheduled days off are Thursday, October 26th and Monday, October 30th, if a Game Six is necessary. If a Game Seven proves necessary once again, it is scheduled for Wednesday, November 1st. For the 20th time, FOX Sports will present the live telecast coverage of the World Series in 2017.
Well that's it! Break out your team colors, get the grill fired up and the brats ready! It will be a fast, furious and exciting MLB Post-Season. The "Boys of Summer" should put on quite a show! I'll see you at the ballpark!