I seriously doubt that anything can top 2011's fantastic September comebacks of the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays in each league's wild card race. However, the additional berth in each league beginning this season may help bring the excitement levels pretty close.
The wild card standings show very tight races in both leagues entering play on August 26. The Rays have a very slim half-game lead for the top spot. The Baltimore Orioles are only a half-game behind but currently share the lead for berth #2 with the Oakland Athletics. Two other teams are still within reach of a playoff berth. The Detroit Tigers are only one game out, and the Los Angeles Angels are 3.5 games out.
Obviously, the team in the lead appears to have the best chance of winning a berth. The teams still mostly play each other throughout September. This could mean one team knocking out another or all teams playing evenly and keep things just as close. I predict the Rays to take the top wild card and the Athletics to take the second. The Rays are hot and have the experience from 2011 to thrive in the final month plus the best ERA in the American League as of August 26. The A's just keep on winning even against the playoff contenders. The Angels are good enough to win, but they have too many teams to overtake.
In the National League, the Atlanta Braves currently hold berth #1 by 2.5 games over the St. Louis Cardinals, who have spot #2 by only a half-game over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Still in the running are the Pittsburgh Pirates at one game behind the Cardinals and the Arizona Diamondbacks at 5.5 games out.
The Diamondbacks also have too many teams to overtake. I do not see the Braves repeating their collapse of 2011. They have an easy schedule for most of September, so they should hang onto the top wild card. Between the Pirates and the Cardinals, the Pirates have the easier September schedule -- but not by much because they have some common opponents, namely the lower half of the N.L. Central. Still, though, I predict the Dodgers taking the second wild card by a small margin thanks to the blockbuster deal they just made in acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, and Carl Crawford from the Boston Red Sox.
Remember that some division races are all still up for grabs as well. The divisional standings show three division leaders all with leads of 3.5 games or less. The Dodgers, Rays, and Tigers still have divisional titles in sight, so they have extra incentive to fight hard.
The extra wild card in each league has kept the pennant races interesting, and September promises even more excitement. It may not match what we saw in 2011, but it will be fun to watch.
Evan Drellich, Dodgers, Red Sox Complete Blockbuster Deal, mlb.mlb.com, August 25, 2012.
Major League Baseball, Team-By-Team Schedule, mlb.mlb.com
Yahoo! Sports, 2012 Regular Season Standings (Linked Above), sports.yahoo.com/mlb
Raymond became a baseball fan at a very young age. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. His favorite teams are the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau
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