After the way the season started/almost didn’t start, it seems incredible we are approaching the end. LA has totally run away with the NL West. Houston has clinched a playoff spot, will certainly win the AL West and probably the AL top seed.
Actually, the absence of division races is one of the themes of the season. The Cardinals have the NL Central clearly in hand. In the AL East it looked like the Rays were making it a race with the Yankees, closing to 3.5 games at the beginning of September after a hot August, but nope. Now with only a couple weeks left the Yankees are 5.5 up on the Blue Jays and 6 on the Rays. In the Central a 3.5 game lead by the Guardians over the White Sox is looking unlikely to be overcome without an epic collapse by the Clevelanders. The only real neck and neck horse race is the NL East between the Mets and Braves—Mets lead by 1 game.
For the wild cards, the AL looks pretty set among the Rays, Jays, and Mariners in some order with the O’s lurking in case one of the others slumps at the worst possible time. (Note: the Rays have a rough finishing schedule, but I’m going to be optimistic and say they get in.) The Mariners making it to the playoffs would end a 21 year drought.
In the NL, clearly whoever loses out between the Mets and Braves will take one spot. That leaves the Phillies, Brewers, and Padres scrambling for two spots. The Brewers currently would be the ones without a chair when the music stops, but not by much.
Other than seeing who makes the playoffs, the other interest in the finishing stretch of the season is a couple record chases. Aaron Judge will almost definitely surpass Roger Maris’ single season AL home run record. Judge hit #’s 58 and 59. Maris set his record (61) in 1961. The other is seeing if Albert Pujols reaches 700 career home runs. Pre-season I said no. However, he’s now sitting at 698, so I’m going to say yes. He’s already hit the second most homers in someone’s age 42 season or older (Barry Bonds hit 28 at that age.) The Cardinals mostly rested him against right handed starting pitchers, and he responded with his best season at the plate since his first season with the Angels a decade ago. Remarkable.