Baseball Playoff Hunt:

Steve O Speak

AL East: It is still a three horse race in the AL East, despite the Red Sox being 7 games out of first (in any other division they would be within a game and a half). Boston has dealt with a rash of injuries, and while they have stayed competitive, I find it hard to believe they can outlast the Yankees and Rays for the top spot (or the wild card). I wouldn’t write them off just yet, but it looks as though Boston will be staying at home this October. The Yankees and Rays are both likely to be in the playoffs, and it will just end up being a matter of who wins the division and who gets the Wild Card spot. New York still has some pitching woes, but with that offense I think they hold on to the division lead. Tampa is an impressive young team, but they are built too much on defense, speed and pitching (which is great). Their inability to add any bats at the trade deadline really make me question their chances to go far this postseason.

AL Central: The Central has quickly become a two man race as the Tigers have fallen 9 games out of first place and don’t look like they can recover. The White Sox hold a slim lead in the division, but they desperately need to find some bats to supplement their quality pitching staff. I don’t know if Chicago has enough to hold off the Twins in the race for the Central. Minnesota is a more well rounded team, and could get a great September boost when Justin Morneau rejoins the team. While it is possible the 2nd place team could be in contention for the Wild Card, I really believe it is coming out of the East this year. I like the Twins to squeak this division out during the last week of the season.

AL West: This division race is pretty much officially over. If the Rangers don’t win this division it would be a major upset. The Angels are absolutely reeling right now and have fallen to 3rd place in the division (and under .500). The A’s could make a run, but they are really built for next year and the future. I would not be shocked if they close the gap, but I don’t see anyone overcoming the Rangers and their incredible offense.

NL East: Since the trade deadline this has become firmly a two team battle, as both the Mets and Marlins have fallen out of the race. The Phillies are in second place, but should get some key players back from injuries down the stretch, that should push them over the top. The Braves desperately want to win in Bobby Cox’s swan song, but will need to fend off a strong Phillies team. Atlanta might need to make a waiver wire deal to ensure their spot atop the East. Unlike in the American League, the Wild Card race is fairly wide open, so whomever loses the East could still be in the playoffs.

NL Central: The Central like the East is down to two teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds hold the division and are the better all-around team, but the Cardinals have the better star power plus the experience making them a safer bet down the stretch. Both teams could be looking for some outside help, but the Reds should be able to hold on to the division. They have a better farm system and will get some much needed extra arms to help close out the season. St. Louis isn’t fully out of it, but I don’t know if they have the offense to overcome the Reds (and right now their pitching staff isn’t too hot either).

NL West: The West is still fairly wide open as I think 4 teams still have a shot at the division. The Dodgers and Rockies still have a ways to go, but I wouldn’t count them out for late season pushes. The Dodgers were the most active team at the deadline bringing in 4 veteran upgrades. While the team hasn’t responded yet with too many wins, that influx of talent could help them in the closing weeks. The Rockies didn’t add any pieces at the deadline, but they are a young team that keeps getting better each week. Unless the Padres or Giants really run away with this division, I wouldn’t count out the Rockies if they are within 5 games in final two weeks. As for the Padres or Giants I got to go with San Francisco. They have better starters, in addition to a better lineup (though not by much). The Padres did add some bats at the deadline though neither has yet to significantly contribute. Both teams could still look at some waiver wire pickups, but I still think the Giants will end up on top.

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