MLB playoff outlook: Royals stay hot in AL Central

Matt McClain,

Sports Blogger,

@mattdmcclain

AL Central

The defending World Series champions Kansas City Royals remain the hottest team in the AL Central. (Sara spaedy, Flickr)

The defending World Series champions Kansas City Royals remain the hottest team in the AL Central.
(Sara spaedy, Flickr)

Contenders: Cleveland Indians (73-56), Detroit Tigers (69-61, 4.5 GB), Kansas City Royals (68-62, 5.5 GB)

Pretenders: Chicago White Sox (63-66, 10 GB), Minnesota Twins (49-81, 24.5 GB)

The Tigers and Royals made up ground this past week. The Tigers are 6-4 in their last 10 games, and the Royals are 8-2 in their last 10. Meanwhile, the Indians are 4-6 in their past 10 contests. The Tigers are getting a boost with shortstop Jose Iglesias and pitcher Mike Pelfrey set to return soon. The Royals don’t need a boost. Kansas City is hotter than any other team in baseball. The Indians need to watch their backs this September.

AL East

Contenders: Toronto Blue Jays (74-56), Boston Red Sox (72-58, two GB), Baltimore Orioles (71-59, three GB)

Pretenders: New York Yankees (67-62, 6.5 GB), Tampa Bay Rays (55-74, 18.5 GB)

This race is tight, but could get even tighter. The Blue Jays and Orioles end August with a three-game series against each other. The Red Sox conclude August with a three-game series against the cellar-dwelling Rays. Boston is primed to make a move back to the top of the division, but if they don’t, it won’t hurt their playoff chances. Second and third place in the AL East is currently good enough for a wild card spot.

AL West

Contenders: Texas Rangers (77-54), Houston Astros (68-62, 8.5 GB), Seattle Mariners (68-61, 8.5 GB)

Pretenders: Oakland Athletics (57-73, 19.5 GB), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (56-74, 20.5 GB)

Texas is in the driver’s seat in the AL West. The Mariners and Astros, however, are in good position to make a run at a wild card spot. Houston and Seattle are three games back from the second wild card position. Houston’s chances look better in the immediate future. The Astros play the Athletics to end August, but the Mariners have to face the division-leading Rangers.

NL Central

Contenders: Chicago Cubs (82-47), St. Louis Cardinals (68-61, 14 GB), Pittsburgh Pirates (67-61, 14.5 GB)

Pretenders: Milwaukee Brewers (56-74, 26.5 GB), Cincinnati Reds (55-74, 27 GB)

The Cubs haven’t lost any ground. The Cardinals and Pirates will be fighting until the end for the second wild card spot in the NL. The Pirates have to go to Wrigley Field to play the Cubs, while the Cardinals head to Milwaukee to face off against the Brewers. Despite the tough schedule, the Pirates are on a four-game winning streak. Pittsburgh could use that momentum to propel them into the second wild card position.

NL East

Contenders: Washington Nationals (75-55), Miami Marlins (eight GB), New York Mets, (nine GB)

Pretenders: Philadelphia Phillies (60-70, 15 GB), Atlanta Braves (48-83, 27.5 GB)

The Nationals have a comfortable lead in the division heading into September. Miami and New York are within three games of the second wild card spot and play each other to end August. The Marlins and Mets both have motivation. Miami hasn’t been to the playoffs since they won the World Series in 2003. The Mets were games away from a championship last season, and they don’t want to come up short again.

NL West

Contenders: Los Angeles Dodgers (73-57), San Francisco Giants (71-59, 2 GB)

Pretenders: Colorado Rockies (62-68, 11 GB), San Diego Padres (55-75, 18 GB), Arizona Diamondbacks (55-76, 18.5 GB)

The Dodgers took a step forward last week when they beat the Giants in a three-game series. The two teams meet again in September. They will play each other five more times, with each game coming after Sept. 18. Those games will most likely be the deciding factor for this division. The team who comes in second still has a great chance to play postseason baseball. The Giants currently hold a 2.5 game lead over the Cardinals, who sit in the second wild card position.

ozone@ocolly.com

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