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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

MLB Playoff Picture

Photo via Flickr

All standings are as of 9/21; Updated numbers as of 9/24

The final month of the baseball season has been full of twists, turns and surprises. Out of the 10 teams currently in a playoff spot, only f=our of them were in the playoffs last year. Eight out of the 10 have not been to the World Series in the last 10 years. It’s shaping up to be an exciting postseason. Here’s a breakdown of all the contenders.

American League East:
After a 22-year wait, the Toronto Blue Jays appear to be on the verge of once again making the playoffs. A last-place team in early May, the Blue Jays have been on a winning streak since the All-Star Break, going 40-18 since then. After picking up pitcher David Price and the now-injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, this team has been almost unstoppable. They have cruised to a 2 ½ game lead in the normally very competitive AL East. A three-game series with the second-place New York Yankees will give the Blue Jays a chance to put this division away for good.

American League Central:
Last year, the Kansas City Royals were the scrappy underdogs of the postseason, in turn making their first trip to October since 1985. They swept their way through the playoffs before losing to the San Francisco Giants in the seventh game of the World Series.

This year, however, they are a force to be reckoned with. With two weeks to go, the Royals hold a commanding 11-game lead in the division, with a “magic number” to officially clinch the division of only three. The only question is if they’ll have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, a distinction they currently have by two games over the Blue Jays.

American League West:
After losing a mind-boggling 324 games between 2011 and 2013, the Houston Astros appear to have finally turned a corner with their fortunes. For much of the year, they held a commanding division advantage, leading by 5 ½ games as late as August 26. However, lately, they have been slipping, going a mediocre 8-14 since that date.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers have been surging, coming from as far as nine games back to take the division lead. A four-game sweep of the Astros during a crucial series last week has only helped Texas’ fortunes, as they now hold a 1 ½ game lead down the stretch. During this hot streak, the Rangers have been led by Prince Fielder and trade deadline acquisition Cole Hamels.

National League East:
What many expected to be a cakewalk for the Washington Nationals has turned into something completely different: a runaway by the New York Mets. Three games out of first place on July 30, the Mets have been on an absolute tear since then, going 31-15 and building up a six-game lead in the East. This is even after having a historically bad offense in the first half of the season. Their backbone has been their young pitching staff, anchored by aces Jacob DeGrom and Matt Harvey, and the bat of Yoenis Cespedes, who was acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers on July 31. Since then, Cespedes has hit 17 home runs, while driving in 42 runs, providing a much-needed offensive spark. For a team that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2006, this has been an exciting stretch run. Their magic number over Washington stands at eight five.

National League Central:
This race appeared to be over a few weeks into the season, as the St. Louis Cardinals accelerated to the front early on and never looked back. They have slipped a little bit recently, with the white-hot Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs breathing down their neck. However, they remain up by four games in the division, and have become the first team to clinch no worse than a wild-card game spot.

While Pittsburgh’s success is no shock, having been a wild card each of the last two seasons, the Cubs are one of the pleasant surprises of the year. Not expected to contend this year, Chicago is only two games back from home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game. They’ve already won 87 games this season, a total exceeded only once in the last 20 years. With the brilliant pitching of Jake Arrieta, and the strong bats of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, the Cubs look like a team that will contend not only this year, but many more years in the future.

National League West:
While the defending champions, the San Francisco Giants, have not necessarily been a bad team this year, they’ve been disappointing. They’re seven games behind the dominant Los Angeles Dodgers, who are on pace for their third consecutive division title. Led by the pitching of the National League’s two best, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, they’ve been in first place every day since May 29, and have gotten their magic number down to a mere seven games.

As of now, the playoffs in each league would look like this:

American League Wild Card: Houston Astros at New York Yankees
National League Wild Card: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

American League Division Series: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays
Astros or Yankees at Kansas City Royals

National League Division Series: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers
Pirates or Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals

With plenty of new faces this year, the MLB playoffs look to be even more exciting than usual, and will certainly set up plenty of great moments.

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