by Rob Joyce
There are just a few precious weeks left in the baseball regular season, and nearly half the league is still in the mix for a postseason bid. One team (the Cubs) already has the division wrapped up, but nearly everyone else in contention still has work to do. Beginning the week there are six teams in the running for the two wild card spots in the American League, while in the NL it’s a three-horse race (not including close division leaders).
With fewer than 20 games remaining for every team, here are the most important series left across baseball:
6) Boston vs. Toronto (Sept. 30-Oct. 2):
The AL East has been a three-horse race for the vast majority of the season. The Red Sox are currently in first, but there’s a good chance that, depending on how other series shake out, the division crown could come down to the final three games at Fenway. The series so far this year has been incredibly close, and with two of the most electrifying offenses in baseball, runs could be aplenty.
5) Los Angeles vs. San Francisco (Sept. 19-21):
These two rivals still have six games against one another, but this week’s series is likely the Giants’ last chance for the NL West. The Dodgers begin the week with a 5.5-game lead, making a San Francisco sweep all but necessary. Meanwhile, the Giants are in a race with the Mets and Cardinals for the two wild card spots – right now they’d be in, but every win is vital.
4) Seattle at Houston (Sept. 26-28):
Quite simply, this is an elimination series. Both teams are chasing the Orioles and Blue Jays, while fighting for positioning against the Tigers and Yankees. A sweep keeps one team in it while likely eliminating the other, while if someone merely takes two out of three, it could spell an end to both teams’ seasons.
3) Seattle vs. Toronto (Sept. 19-21):
Of course, the Mariners could help themselves at home this week by winning a three-game set against the Blue Jays. Seattle took two out of three from Toronto in July and are one of the hottest teams in baseball over the last 10 days. A series win (or a sweep), followed by the lowly Twins, the Astros and the last-place A’s means Seattle could conceivably be controlling its own destiny.
2) Toronto vs. Baltimore (Sept. 27-29):
The Blue Jays are winners in four of six meetings since the All-Star break, but it’s the O’s with a one-game lead, and both are chasing the Red Sox for first place. Expect an October feeling as both fight for their postseason lives. If the season ended today, both would be in the postseason, but winning the division and avoiding the wild card game is obviously preferred. A full-on blood bath should be expected.
1) Baltimore vs. Boston (Sept. 19-22):
An Orioles series victory means the AL East race remains awfully tight. A Red Sox victory means the division is likely down to Boston and Toronto. A split keeps the status quo. Consider Camden Yards the first domino, with the results here over the next four days causing an effect that will be felt over the next two weeks.