3 weeks left for 3 key races
Cleveland’s 20*-game win streak is one of the more impressive feats in recent sports history–if not all time. They have dominated their September slate, while charging past the Astros for the best record in the American League. Some will argue it won’t matter if they flop in October, but this has been an enduring run regardless (Heck, they made a Brad Pitt movie about the last 20-game win streak).
While the Indians have stolen the show the last couple of weeks, there are still interesting races throughout the standings. Specifically, three races will define the closing stretch of 2017: home-field in the AL, the NL Central and the AL Wildcard. The NL wildcard is close, but the Brewers and Cardinals should be more focused on catching the Cubs (just 2 games ahead) than the Rockies (3 games ahead).
Houston has been the best team in the AL since April, but the Indians streak has given them a one-game lead in the loss column with less than 20 games left. The top spot in the league is crucial not just for the home-field advantage in a potential ALCS, but the top seed will face a wildcard team, while the second spot must play Boston and Chris Sale. So the Indians have every incentive to keep winning, while Houston will need to pick up the pace and hope Cleveland cools down a little bit.
Both teams face other playoff contenders down the stretch. Cleveland must face Kansas City, Minnesota and the Angels, while Houston has a daunting 10-game run against the Angels, Rangers and Red Sox to close the year. In fact, there’s a chance their four game closing series at Fenway will roll right into an ALDS showdown.
Prediction: Indians streak to a comfortable top spot.
Weekend series to watch: Royals @ Indians. Cleveland could be going for MLB record win-streak against a wildcard-contending division rival.
The Cubs were swept by the Brewers over the weekend allowing their division lead over Milwaukee and St. Louis to slip to just 2 games. The Cubs have 11 games combined against the Cardinals and Brewers remaining, while St. Louis and Milwaukee close the season with a 3 game series in Busch Stadium. This race will be decided in the eight-consecutive road games the Cubs have from September 21-28. If they can split road series with the Brewers and Cardinals in that stretch, they should hold on to their post season spot.
Prediction: Cubs, but its very close.
Weekend series to watch: Cardinals @ Cubs. If St. Louis wins this series in Wrigley it will get very scary in Chicago.
The Yankees are all but in, with a 5 game cushion between them and the third place team. Minnesota has carved out a two-game lead for the second spot, but six teams are still within five games. Yet, if any teams catch the Twins, it likely would be the Angels, Royals or Rangers.
Angels: They just started a 13-game run where they face either the Astros, Rangers or Indians–that’s a tough draw right now. All but three of those games are at home, but it will still be a tough ask to get through that stretch with more than six wins. Just playing .500 baseball probably won’t get the job done.
Royals: After their upcoming series with Cleveland, they won’t play another team above .500 until their closing series against a Diamondbacks team that should have its playoff standing sewn up. They lost the season series 11-8 against the Twins, which may end up costing them.
Rangers: Texas has Oakland on its schedule for seven games (including the final four), which should help them close the gap. If they can go above .500 in their upcoming nine-game West coast trip, I like their chances.
Twins: The team they are all chasing is looking to stretch its surprising run into October. They have three games each with the Yankees and Indians, but if they can take care of business in their seven remaining games against Detroit they will be hard to catch.
Prediction: This one might take 163 games, but the Royals steal the final playoff spot from the Twins.
Weekend series to watch: Rangers @ Angels. This series will be a major factor in which AL West team can catch the Twins.
*All stats and records correct as of 11a.m. 9/13