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September is well underway, and the divisions are starting to wrap up. We’re really starting to get a good idea of who the final 10 teams will be, though a few teams on the outside in the AL still have some pretty legitimate hopes of a Wildcard berth. Even if a postseason birth is probable, however, there’s still plenty of room to gain or lose a seed, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, September 9, before the day’s games:
Atlanta has lost their last four games, yet still holds a two-game lead in the NL. It’s not a good sign, but at least their closet competition haven’t been able to take advantage. Even so, things could have been a lot worse if Atlanta didn’t have the guys they do.
The Dodgers have also lost their last four games, and now lead the Cardinals by just half a game. However, they did win their last six beforehand. St Louis has won their last three, a home sweep of the Pirates to seize control of their division. That’s very encouraging to see a contending team do something like that this late in the season. Los Angeles still has loads of ability, but with St Louis’ morale boost, they’ll be a tough team to beat now.
Four straight wins have the Reds tied with Pittsburgh and just percentage points behind. Four straight losses have the Pirates reeling, and while they still have a very good grip on a playoff spot, they don’t look like they’ll be going very far right now.
Very hard-fought series against the contending Tigers and arch-rival Yankees have the Red Sox with the best record in the majors. Boston isn’t invincible, but they aren’t going away. They can string hits together with the best of them, and Koji Uehara has been lights out in the closer’s role. Similar tactics will be needed to stop the Sox at this point.
A recent rough stretch, while not realistically threatening their division lead, has dropped the Tigers down to third. Oakland has used a four-game series with Houston to take advantage and rise to #2. They did well against the Rangers beforehand as well, but shouldn’t expect this to be easy. With Detroit’s pitching and the middle of their lineup, they can’t stay down for long.
Neither team is at its best right now, but the Rangers are still very much within spitting distance of the division, while the Rays have fairly quickly fallen 7.5 games behind the Red Sox, and have Baltimore and Cleveland two games on their heels. Texas is in a much better position, but Tampa’s top pitchers are always capable of elite performances.