They call them the dog days of summer for a reason. Across Major League Baseball’s American and National Leagues there are six divisions, with each league having an East, Central, and West, as well as two wild-card, spots up for grabs.
The two Wild Card teams get to play a winner-take-all game to get into the Divisional round of the Playoffs which means that winning your division ensures your stint of October baseball is more than a blip on the radar. In three of the six division races (AL West, NL West, and NL East) there are teams with leads bigger than twelve games in the standings so, barring historic collapses, those spots are all but sealed and the next 50 or so games are solely for jockeying into playoff position. The AL East looks to be Boston’s to lose as well with the Red Sox on an eight game tear and the second place Yankees struggling. In the AL Central, defending AL Champions Cleveland are looking to be the most consistent team of an inconsistent bunch with Kansas City and Minnesota faltering to around .500.
Where does one look for a compelling Pennant Race this season? The answer is the NL Central which has three teams with winning records (however slightly) within 1.5 games of the standings of each other. The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and the St. Louis Cardinals are all jockeying for the division pennant. Given that St. Louis and Milwaukee are 6.5 games back of the Wild Card spots, catching the Cubs will likely be their only route into October baseball. Each team has flaws, whether it be getting good pitching (Milwaukee), getting consistent run production (St. Louis), or regression after a historically successful season (Chicago).
This is where the rest of the league comes into play, with all three teams having a schedule among the eight easiest remaining in the 30 team MLB based on the winning percentages of their remaining opponents. There is also head to head matchups to take into consideration with each of the three teams facing each other a minimum of five times each. The end result of the cupcakes and cannibalizing? The only truly compelling pennant race at the moment which will cause fans of all three teams considerable excitement and stress.
The end result of the cupcakes and cannibalizing? The only truly compelling pennant race at the moment which will cause fans of all three teams considerable excitement and stress.
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