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MLB Playoff Picture: The first of the year

We start our month-long look at how the playoff picture is shaping up

MLB: Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays
Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

With the calendar flipping to September, it is time to shift our focuses away from the minors and into the playoff chases around the league. The minor-league season will continue for a bit longer — the regular season ends on Monday, but Lowell will be in the postseason after that — but the year is basically over. So, for the rest of the MLB regular season we will have daily updates on the playoff chases around the league. If you’re only here for Red Sox stuff and don’t really care about the league as a whole, that’s cool! This post probably won’t be for you, though.

American League East

This isn’t really much of a race. The Yankees did beat the Athletics on Sunday with a late-game comeback that was capped off by back-to-back homers from Brett Gardner and Mike Ford to walk it off. The Rays, meanwhile, picked up an easy 8-2 win over the Indians. There was no movement in this race, but the Yankees lead by ten games. The Red Sox trail by 15.5, for whatever that’s worth.

American League Central

As mentioned above, the reeling Indians lost to the Rays on Sunday. They had made this division a race earlier in the summer, but the Twins are starting to pull away with this one yet again with Cleveland suffering through injuries. Minnesota picked up a game in this race on Monday with an easy 8-3 win over the Tigers, highlighted by the debut of top prospect Brusdal Graterol out of the bullpen. They now lead this race by 5.5 games.

American League West

Like the East, this one isn’t a race. We already mentioned that the A’s lost in heartbreaking fashion in New York. At the top of the division, the Astros just continued to flex their muscles. Justin Verlander was the story of baseball on Sunday, throwing a no-hitter up in Toronto as Houston got the win on the road over the Blue Jays. The Astros lead this division by ten games.

American League Wildcard

This is the best race in the American League, with four teams within five games and three within just one game for two spots. We’ve already talked about the results for the Indians, Rays and Athletics. We also know that the Red Sox took a one-run victory in Los Angeles as well. So, with these results the Rays are in the top spot. They hold a half-game lead over the Indians in the second wildcard spot, while the Athletics are a half-game out of the playoffs. The Red Sox are far behind, trailing Cleveland by five games, but they are still alive.

National League East

The NL East features two of the hottest teams in baseball in the Braves and Nationals. The former is leading the division, and Washington has only made up one game in the division over their last ten games despite going 9-1 in that time. On Sunday, the Nationals finished off a sweep of the Marlins but once again failed to pick up a game in the division with the Braves beating the White Sox behind two homers from Freddie Freeman. Atlanta leads the East by 5.5 games.

National League Central

This is the best division race in all of baseball, with three teams still thinking they have a legitimate chance at taking the crown. The top team has been running away a bit of late, though, with the Cardinals having won eight of ten. They played two on Sunday, winning the first on a walkoff single from Harrison Bader before dropping the second. Meanwhile, the Cubs and Brewers were playing each other with the latter getting the win on Sunday in a shutdown, 4-0 victory. St. Louis has a three-game lead over the Cubs in the division with the Brewers sitting six games back.

National League West

This division is the biggest runaway in the game. The Dodgers are perhaps the best team in baseball and they are just dominating. They’re 18 games up and this race is over, even if the Diamondbacks and Giants are still technically in it.

National League Wildcard

The NL Wildcard race is a really fun and crowded one, particularly for the last spot. The Nationals, as we mentioned above, are red-hot and while they can’t seem to gain ground on the Braves they have opened up a 4.5-game lead over the second wildcard and have a seven-game cushion on a playoff spot. The Cubs, meanwhile, hold that second wildcard spot. Behind Chicago, there are four more teams within four games. Two of them, the Phillies and Mets, faced off on Sunday Night Baseball with the Phillies winning on a bases-clearing double from Scott Kingery in the eighth. We already mentioned the Brewers picking up the win over Chicago, leaving the Diamondbacks as the other team in this race. Arizona blew a lead in the ninth against the Dodgers on Sunday before dropping the game in the eleventh. So, with all of that, the Cubs’ leads are as follows:

  • 2.5 games over the Phillies
  • 3.0 games over the Brewers
  • 3.5 games over the Diamondbacks
  • 4.0 games over the Mets