With the passing of Labor Day, Major League Baseball has officially entered its stretch run. There are three divisions where the second-place team is at the most five games behind the division leader. There are also seven teams that can still snatch a wildcard spot in the American League, while four teams fight for three National League wildcard spots.
In the AL, two of the three divisions are still up for grabs. The AL West appears to be wrapped up as the Mariners will not be able to overcome its slow start. Houston has an 11-game lead with only 25 games left to play. The AL East and AL Central are both wide open.
In the East, the Yankees had a massive 15.5 lead in the division but are now in the midst of the franchise’s worst 50 game stretch in years. The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays have capitalized on this opportunity. The Rays only trail by five games and the Jays only trail by 6.5 games. Fortunately for New York, its 15.5 game lead will likely be too much for anyone else to overcome.
In the Central, the Cleveland Guardians have a two-game lead on both the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox. Cleveland has been a bit of a surprise team this season, while the Twins are about where people thought they would be. The White Sox are an entirely different story.
Many people, including myself, had Chicago running away and hiding with not only the AL Central but the American League as a whole. The White Sox have underperformed on a massive level. Chicago has been blessed as no one has ran away with the Central yet. The Sox are playing better baseball, but it appears that only one of these three teams will likely make the Postseason.
These three teams play each other a bunch in the last 25 or so games this season. Clevland and Minnesota matchup eight more times this season. Cleveland and Chicago matchup four more times this season. Chicago and Minnesota matchup six more times this season with all sic coming in the last nine days of the season.
For the AL wildcard race, the Rays hold the first spot. Seattle holds the second spot, trailing the Rays by a game and leading the third spot by 0.5 games. The Blue Jays hold the third wildcard spot with a 4.5-game lead over Baltimore and 7.5-game lead over Minnesota and Chicago.
Realistically, the Orioles are the only team on the outside looking in that could overthrow a current wildcard team. This is not only because Baltimore is only 4.5 back, but due to all its games remaining against the Blue Jays. The Orioles have six head-to-head matchups remaining against Toronto.
In the NL, two of the three divisions are about wrapped up. The Dodgers have a 19-game lead on San Diego in the West, while the Cardinals have a nine-game lead over Milwaukee in the Central.
The NL East went from a runway win for the New York Mets, to the division being tied two days ago. The Atlanta Braves have surged in the second half of the season for the second time in two years. This, coupled with the Mets’ usual late-season collapse, has made this division the tightest in baseball. These teams will meet three more times in Atlanta for games 157, 158 and 159.
The NL wildcard is a four-horse race for only three spots. The Braves are 10.5 games up on the second and third wildcard spots and have all but punched its ticket to October. The Phillies and Padres are tied for the bottom two wildcard spots, and both lead the Milwaukee Brewers by four games. It may be too little, too late for the Brewers as Milwaukee may not be able to dig out of its mid-season slump.
My stretch-run MLB Postseason predictions:
- Houston Astros – 105 wins
- New York Yankees – 96 wins
- Chicago White Sox – 85 wins
- Seattle Mariners – 93 wins
- Toronto Blue Jays – 93 wins
- Tampa Bay Rays – 92 wins
- Los Angeles Dodgers – 112 wins
- Atlanta Braves – 102 wins
- St. Louis Cardinals – 96 wins
- New York Mets – 101 wins
- Philadelphia Phillies – 89 wins
- San Diego Padres – 89 wins