Fall baseball brings cool temperatures, hot playoff races
Published: Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 23:09
While the New England temperature has grown brisker, contention for the 10 available spots in the 2013 Major League Baseball postseason has heated up. Although the Red Sox, Tigers, Braves and Dodgers have accumulated secure leads on their respective divisions the American League West, National League Central, A.L. Wild Card and N.L. Wild Card races remain up in the air. In the American League, Oakland, Texas, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and New York all still cling to hopes of playing next month. The last three weeks of the season will definitively clear the picture.
With so many teams left fighting for so few postseason spots and fewer than two-dozen games left to play, some teams find themselves in betters position to succeed than others. As of tonight, only six series remain; strength of scheduling will resolve a lot down the stretch. For the clubs mentioned above, all still in heavy contention, the quality of the teams in the opposite dug out will be the significant factor deciphering who realizes October and who does not. Visiting the schedules of those in the hunt for a divisional title and or wild card berth could provide significant insight into how events will unfold as the month progresses.
The American League West divisional battle features a face-off between two up-start rivals. Texas and Oakland have clashed all season but only one club will earn the title in order to gain a first round bye avoiding the single elimination Wild Card play-in game. Oakland leads the division by a game and a half but hosts only seven more home games in comparison to the Rangers’ 13. Oakland’s remaining opponents are on average seven games under the .500 mark; Texas’ opposition are two games below .500. Considering their current lead over the Rangers and softer remaining slate, the A’s are in a more favorable position to run away with the crown. That said, with almost twice as many home games left to be played, the Rangers should not yet be written off. This weekend’s series between the two in Arlington, Texas could be highly implicative to the outcome of the divisional race.
The American League Wild Card race showcases a similar dilemma. If the season were to end today Texas would face Tampa Bay in a one game, single-elimination Wild Card playoff. Cleveland, Baltimore and New York are all within three games of Tampa for the final playoff spot, but with only six series left to be played such a deficit can be much more daunting than it appears when taken at face value. With games remaining against the Red Sox and Rays, the Yankees’ road ahead seems discouraging. Match-ups against basement feeders San Francisco and Houston should, however, fuel optimism for fans of the Bronx Bombers. Oriole fans, meanwhile, cannot share in that optimism. With a remaining slate featuring only divisional opponents, including two series against Boston and a series in Tampa Bay, Baltimore will have to catch fire to cash in on their opportunity. Cleveland may be in the best position to overcome their deficit, as none of their remaining opponents are still in playoff contention. Considering the uncertainty that looms, expect intense baseball to be played as the season nears its final days.