Major League Baseball playoff picture shaping up, teams battle for final spots

Photo Courtesy of mlb.com

By Jamie Belfer || Sports Editor

October baseball is quickly approaching as American and National League teams are fighting for the four remaining playoff spots.  While six teams have already clinched a spot in the 2019 playoffs, they are still continuing to battle for home field advantage in their final games of the regular season.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were the first team to earn their spot in the playoffs after defeating the Baltimore Orioles 7-3 on September 10.  The Dodgers have led the NL West all year as they currently hold 101-56 record. With a strong starting rotation and hefty hitters, the Dodgers continue to dominate their opponents.  Four of their starting pitchers have reached double digit wins, with Clayton Kershaw leading the pack with 15. Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger leads the offensive charge with a .300 batting average and 46 home runs.  The Dodgers will most likely play the National League wild-card winner at home in the first round of the playoffs.

The Atlanta Braves clinched the NL East title on Friday, September 20 with a 6-0 win over the San Francisco Giants.  The Braves are currently 96-62 with five more games left to reach 100 total wins. The Braves have multiple power hitters in Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson, who have 41, 38, and 37 home runs apiece. Although Acuna Jr. will not play in the final games of the regular season due to a hip injury, it is probable that he will be ready for the playoffs.  Additionally, Freeman, who has been battling some elbow issues, is expected to play in the final series of the regular season (ESPN.com).  

The Houston Astros earned the AL West title for the third straight year on Sunday, September 22, after a 13-5 victory against the Los Angeles Angels.  The Astros have a current record of 103-54, making this season their third straight season with over 100 wins. The Astros could be the team to beat this year with hot and dangerous hitters such as Michael Brantley, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Jose Altuve, all who have batter averages above .290.  The also have a devastating one-two punch in starting pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who have 20 and 19 wins, respectively.  

The New York Yankees have had a rollercoaster season filled with constant injuries.  However, with their “next man up” mentality, the Yankees persevered to clinch the AL East title after defeating the Los Angeles Angels 9-1 on Thursday, September 19.  The Yankees are currently competing with the Astros and the Dodgers for the best record in baseball as they are currently 102-56. Although many of their biggest hitters were out due to injury for a significant part of the season, the Yankees currently lead the MLB in homeruns and RBIs.  Key players such as DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Cameron Maybin, and Luke Voit have all stepped up to fill the various voids throughout the season. With Domingo German out for the postseason, it is up to the remaining starters to step up to give the Yankees a shot at a World Series title.   

The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the NL Central after a close 3-2 victory against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, September 22.  The Cardinals are currently 90-69, closing the regular season with three games against the Cubs. After battling for first place in the NL Central against the Brewers all year, the Cardinals managed to edge them out to clinch a playoff spot. While the Cardinals may not have the big name players as some of the other teams, they could certainly rally to make a run for the World Series.  With consistent starter pitchers and a solid closer in Carlos Martinez, the Cardinals could shock some people as an underdog contender. 

The Washington Nationals clinched a wild-card spot in the playoffs on Tuesday, September 24 after defeating the Phillies.  The Nationals did not have a great start to the season, as they had the third worst record in the National League as of May 24 (ESPN.com).  The Nationals are currently 88-69. With an impressive starting pitching rotation composed of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin, the Nationals were able to bounce back to become a playoff contender.

With the regular season coming to a close, many teams are still battling it out for the final playoff spots.  The Minnesota Twins are close to clinching the AL Central, while the Brewers seem to be closing in on the second NL wild-card spot.  Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s are battling the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians for the two remaining AL wild-card spots. The first two wild card games will be played on October 1 and October 2.

Sophomore Jamie Belfer is the Sports Editor. Her email is jbelfer@fandm.edu.

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