By Evan Roberts
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1. Cincinnati Reds
How much do they care about getting the No. 1 seed? We shall see. As Dusty Baker recovers, the Reds are officially National League Central champions (as predicted right there…a little humble brag). Getting the No. 1 seed assures home-field advantage throughout, but also allows the Reds to open up the playoffs on Sunday against the survivor of the Wild Card play-in game.
2. New York Yankees
A huge jump for the Yankees this week, mainly because they are getting healthier and haven’t been losing much lately. Since losing the opener of the Red Sox series, the Yankees have rattled off 10 of 12 and now have a 1 1/2 game lead over Baltimore, the largest lead they’ve had since September 2. The return of Andy Pettitte has been a spark, as he has now hurled 11 scoreless innings.
3. Baltimore Orioles
I keep waiting for the Orioles’ magic to run out. Losing the first two games of their eight-game road trip seemed like a warning sign, but they responded with six straight road wins. Last night, thee finale of a doubleheader against Toronto was another warning sign. The Orioles fought back to creep within one run and had the bases loaded with nobody out. They failed to score, and in the following inning J. P. Arencibia hit a grand slam to break the game open. They still have a commanding Wild Card lead.
4. Atlanta Braves
Kris Medlen is all lined up to start the Wild Card play-in game a week from Friday. The Braves not winning that one game will cause many fans to bemoan the system that one game can determine a season. My answer to that is this: WIN THE DIVISION!
5. Texas Rangers
Last night’s comeback win over the Athletics made the mathematics very difficult for the Rangers to NOT win the American League West. Josh Hamilton is back from his sinus issue and hit a home run to move ahead of triple-crown hopeful Miguel Cabrera. The Rangers now have a five-game lead, but the A’s still have six head-to-head games left with the first-place Rangers.
6. Washington Nationals
Yes, I put the team with the best record in baseball in the six spot. Deal with it. Maybe its “coasting,” but the Nationals have not played great baseball as of late. Gio Gonzalez continues his pursuit of the Cy Young and Bryce Harper continues to break random teenage records.
7. San Francisco Giants
How about Bruce Bochy for NL Manager of the Year? The Giants have now won 12 of 16 dating back to their series win over the Dodgers that gave the Giants firm control in the NL West, a division they are now champions of. I’m against the idea of Melky Cabrera being ineligible for the batting title (no matter whose idea it was), but the Giants have now firmly placed the Melky saga in the rearview mirror as they look for their second World Series in three years.
8. Oakland Athletics
Time to hold on for dear life in Oakland. The A’s lead over the second Wild Card is down to a measly two games over the surging Angels. The A’s lost a brutal game over the weekend in the Bronx when they flushed a four-run extra-inning lead and then lost on a walk-off error. The Rangers hold the keys on which AL West team will join them in the postseason. Every remaining game for Texas is against either Oakland or Anaheim.
9. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
We heard this week that owner Arte Moreno isn’t thrilled with the performance of general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia, but all things can be forgiven if the Angels continue to win. The sweep over Chicago has placed the Angels only two games back of Oakland for the second Wild Card. The September record of 14-7 is easily the best month the Angels have had this season.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
So far the Cards have won seven of eight in their stretch against the lousy Astros and Cubs. But the real question concerning the Cardinals’ pursuit of the second Wild Card is how they fare to close out the season against arguably the two best teams in the NL. The Reds and Nationals are only competing against each other for the No. 1 seed, but both makes visits to St. Louis to close out the year.
Do you agree with Evan’s rankings? Who is too high and who is too low? Share your thoughts in the comments section below…