As September nears its end, people all across the states are welcoming the signs of fall — leaves changing colors, cooler weather and an abundance of excuses to wear a sweater. While some await their pumpkin spice lattes, however, baseball fans everywhere are eagerly anticipating October’s arrival for the emotional rollercoaster that is the postseason.
While some teams have already secured a spot in the playoffs, others are still vying for division titles and Wild Card positions that are shaping up to make this postseason one for the books.
In the robust American League, all divisions have already been clinched, with the Red Sox leading the pack, accentuated by a staggering 107 wins heading into Thursday’s play. Whether or not they can overcome the postseason pressure and avoid divisional round heartbreak will be left to fate; regardless, it has been a historic season for Boston, and the Red Sox are a popular pick to bring back a championship to Beantown.
The Indians have also clinched the Central division for the third consecutive year, and are also major contenders for the World Series crown. Close behind the Red Sox are the defending champion Houston Astros, who recently came out on top of an incredibly competitive AL West.
Don’t count out the Oakland A’s though. They’ve already secured a playoff position after climbing from the lowest opening day payroll in baseball, and A’s are one of the biggest surprising in baseball this season, highlighted by a lineup full of power from top to bottom. The Yankees are up 2.5 games on the A’s in the Wild Card heading into Thursday and currently have home field advantage, but of course, all is subject to change if the A’s continue their conquest.
While the American League stage is set, the National League is still incredibly turbulent — titles for both the West and Central divisions are being sought after by many teams with World Series aspirations. The Cubs currently lead the National League with 91 wins and 66 losses, though their lead in the Central division has dwindled to a mere half game over the Brewers after their two unexpected losses to the Pirates earlier this week.
The Cardinals are also in the running for the NL Central, only 4.5 games behind the Cubs and their fragile reign. St. Louis and Milwaukee, notably, are in the middle of a series against one another, making Chicago’s place at the top even more unstable.
In the West, the Dodgers and Rockies are neck and neck, the latter trailing the former by just one game in the win column. Perhaps the most convoluted race is that for the Wild Card positions — the Cubs’ less than stellar performance has essentially put them in the running for a Wild Card position alongside the Brewers, Cardinals and Rockies. Only the Atlanta Braves have clinched a division title, though they’re still two games behind the Cubs for the No. 1 seed in the NL.
Given all the surprises that the second half of this season bore witness to, there’s little doubt that the postseason will fail to excite, regardless of what teams end up in what positions. After all, one of the best parts about baseball is that upsets are not just possible, but probable, and with the incredibly dynamic group of teams this year’s playoffs will host, this postseason is shaping up to be one rich with drama.
Emily Ohman writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact her at [email protected].