For the last couple of years, September and October have meant close to nothing to me as a Red Sox fan. In 2014, our season was long over by the time we reached September. We started the year as defending champions, and ended it in dead last of the AL East, at one point sitting 26.5 games behind. Brutal. Fast forward to September of 2015, and would you look at that, there we were in fifth place once again. Toward the end of September, we had a jolt of life but unfortunately winning six in a row just wasn’t enough.
Now it’s September 2016, and we’re not only in contention for the playoffs, we’re racing to clinch the division. As of Wednesday, the Sox are tied for first with Toronto, while the Orioles and Yankees are both within 4.5 games behind. I’ve talked before about the road ahead for the AL East teams, and the potential for a Wild Card spot for one of the remaining contenders. Now I’ll shift my attention over to the National League.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a comfortable, but not yet cushy, four game lead over the San Francisco Giants. Should they hold that lead, this would be their fourth consecutive year winning the division. Trailing way behind San Fran are the Colorado Rockies, 12 games out. The National League playoff race gets interesting when you look at their potential Wild Card teams.
Some consider this race to be limited to the Giants, the Mets and the Cardinals. However, with Giancarlo Stanton returning from the DL to Miami this week, I’m not yet counting out the Marlins for a Wild Card spot. It was projected that Stanton’s groin sprain would keep him out for at least another three weeks, so Miami fans welcome the early return. In his first game back, he didn’t hit any bombs or drive in any runs, but he had a line drive single in his first at bat – so it’s a start. Stanton, of course, is one of Miami’s most powerful hitters, and had been proving so after a slow start this season up until his injury. The Marlins sit six games out of the WC spot, half a game behind the Pittsburg Pirates. Both the Pirates and Marlins have relatively high losing streaks right now, (eight and six games respectively) though Stanton’s return could potentially provide a spark for the Marlins to jump ahead.
More realistically, the Wild Card spot will either go to the Giants, provided they don’t beat out the Dodgers for their first NL West title since 2012, or to St. Louis. The Cardinals currently hold a Wild Card spot, with a few important series remaining; two against Chicago and one against the Giants.
And of course let’s not count out the Mets, whose season had previously been #cuncelled by Barstool Sports blogger Kevin “KFC” Clancy. With 23 games left for the Mets, just three are against teams with a .500+ record, and almost half will be played at home. While it may seem the Wild Card spots clearly belong to certain teams, there’s still a whole lot of baseball left for that to change.