By Seth McCaskill
Contenders: Cleveland Indians-y (95-57)
Wild Card contenders: Minnesota Twins (78-74, 17.0 GB), Kansas City Royals (74-77, 20.5 GB)
Non-contenders: Detroit Tigers (62-90, 33.0 GB), Chicago White Sox (60-91, 34.5 GB)
Believe it or not, this division was actually fairly close about a month ago. Since then, all the Indians have done is go on an AL-record 22-game winning streak to completely distance themselves from the pack and take over the No. 1 seed in the AL. The Twins are in the second Wild Card spot, the Royals are hanging on for dear life and the Tigers and White Sox are undergoing full-scale rebuilds.
Contenders: Boston Red Sox-x (88-64), New York Yankees (85-67, 3.0 GB)
Wild Card contenders: Tampa Bay Rays (74-78, 14.0 GB)
Non-contenders: Baltimore Orioles (73-80, 15.5 GB), Toronto Blue Jays (71-81, 17.0 GB)
Cy Young favorite Chris Sale has led the Red Sox back to the playoffs as their odd year trend continues. The Bronx Bombers have also had a resurgent season behind rookie Aaron Judge and sit comfortably in the first Wild Card spot, and are certainly still in the division race. Tampa Bay is part of the mediocre battle for the second spot, while Toronto and Baltimore are limping to the finish line.
Contenders: Houston Astros-y (93-58)
Wild Card contenders: Los Angeles Angels (76-75, 17.0 GB), Texas Rangers (75-76, 18 GB), Seattle Mariners (74-78, 19.5 GB)
Non-contenders: Oakland Athletics (69-83, 24.5 GB)
The Astros certainly have not been blowing the competition away in recent weeks but are still fighting for the No. 1 spot in the AL in a major breakout campaign. The Dodgers have managed to stay afloat in the Wild Card race, and the Rangers are also somehow still in it, while Seattle is barely clinging to the fringes. Oakland is once again at the back of the pack after having a trade deadline fire sale.
Contenders: Chicago Cubs (84-67), Milwaukee Brewers (81-71, 3.5 GB), St. Louis Cardinals (79-72, 5.0 GB)
Wild Card contenders: Milwaukee Brewers (81-71, 3.5 GB), St. Louis Cardinals (79-72, 5.0 GB)
Non-contenders: Pittsburgh Pirates (69-84, 16.0 GB), Cincinnati Reds (66-86, 18.5 GB)
While the Cubbies have not looked quite on the level of their historic World Series winning team last season, they are still leading the NL Central in September and definitely have the talent to make some fireworks down the stretch. The Brewers have enjoyed a surprising season, being in contention all year, and cannot be counted out, while the Cardinals are still barely in the running for a Wild Card spot. The Reds are still in the middle of a rebuild, and it appears that the Pirates are beginning one of their own.
Contenders: Washington Nationals-y (92-59)
Non-contenders: Miami Marlins (72-80, 20.5 GB), Atlanta Braves (67-83, 24.5 GB), New York Mets (65-87, 27.5 GB), Philadelphia Phillies (61-97, 32.0 GB)
Even without Bryce Harper, the Nationals haven’t skipped a beat, as they have the division easily in hand. There are no decent teams behind Washington, as the Marlins, Braves, Mets and Phillies are all way out of the Wild Card race.
Contenders: Los Angeles Dodgers-x (97-56)
Wild Card contenders: Arizona Diamondbacks (88-65, 9.0 GB), Colorado Rockies (82-70, 14.5 GB)
Non-contenders: San Diego Padres (68-84, 28.5 GB), San Francisco Giants (60-93, 37.0 GB)
It looked like the Dodgers had a solid chance to break the single-season wins record up until their recent 16-game losing streak. They should still easily reach 100 wins, as they look like the team to beat in the NL. The Rockies and Diamondbacks, two teams that have struggled mightily in recent years, have had wonderful seasons and are in good position to make the playoffs. As usual, the Padres are engaged in a battle of the cellar dwellers, but the other team fighting for it is not who you’d expect. The Giants made the playoffs last year but have fallen apart in 2017 and have the worst record in baseball.
x- Playoff berth clinched
y- Division clinched