Inside the 2018 MLB Playoff Race
It’s August and the games are starting to matter in the Major Leagues. One bad stretch of games in August could leave you on the outside looking in come playoff time. Let’s look at the close divisional and wild card races still going on.
Rex Sox rising, Yankees folding in AL East
For a team that boasts one of the deepest lineups 1-through-9 in the league, the loss of Aaron Judge (wrist injury) has really hurt the Bronx Bombers. Entering Monday, the Yankees have lost five straight, including a four-game sweep to the rival Red Sox, who now hold a 9 and a half-game lead in the AL East.
Keep in mind that the Red Sox did all of this without the help of ace Chris Sale, who is expected to return from shoulder inflammation this weekend in Baltimore.
Second half magic puts Oakland in the thick of the Wild Card hunt
The Oakland Athletics keep winning, I don’t know how… but they just keep winning. The A's took off in June and July to push them right in the middle of the American League Wild Card hunt.
If you look at their roster, your kneejerk reaction is probably “Who are these guys???”. Their rotation consisting of guys who have bounced all around the league (I’m talking about you, Edwin Jackson), their starting lineup can flat out MASH, like Khris Davis (the major league leader in home runs since 2016) and the two Matts (Chapman and Olson). If the A’s find themselves in the Wild Card game, they will be the reason why.
Are the Phillies for real?
There’s a lot of winning going on in Philadelphia this year (shoutout to Meek) and surprisingly the Phillies have kept the trend going. They’ve won five straight and have a game and a half lead over the Atlanta Braves.
Most of their damage has been done at home, with a NL-best 37 wins at Citizens Bank Park. If they want to hold off the Braves and Nationals (there’s still hope for Bryce Harper and Washington), they’ll have to improve on that 25-30 record away from Philly.
The Cubs are finally playing to their potential
The Chicago Cubs hold the best record in the National League, despite missing key members for long periods of time (Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow). They're only a game ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central coming into Monday, but even without those stars they're playing to everyone's expectations.
The Cubs were relatively quiet at the trade deadline, acquiring Cole Hamels and a few relievers to add the pen. The Brewers have been a nice story, but it’s going to be a tough task matching wins late in the season with a team as good as the Cubs. Milwaukee may eventually have to turn its focus on maintaining its lead in the wild card race.
How the (NL) West is won
On paper, the Dodgers are the clear favorite to win the NL West for a sixth straight year, but it’s still wide open out west. They're tied atop the division with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been solid behind MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. The Colorado Rockies have also managed to hang around behind their star Nolan Arenado. Even the Giants sit five games back in the West.
There can only be one division winner, but the added incentive for these teams is to avoid that one game playoff. This race will certainly come down to the last week of the regular season.
Key series to watch
Philadelphia Phillies (62-48) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (62-50)
The margin for error for both teams is extremely slim. Can the Phillies get some wins on the road?
Los Angeles Dodgers (61-51) @ Colorado Rockies (58-52)
The Dodgers have a chance to distance themselves from the Rockies in a packed NL West.
Milwaukee Brewers (65-49) @ Atlanta Braves (59-48)
A potential preview of the NL wild-card game.