Sep 5, 2013, 10:52 AM EST
With most decisions well in hand, the most exciting races may be for the wild card spots in each league, with three AL East rivals duking it out for the final spot there, and the Nationals trying to claw back into the picture in the NL.
Here’s how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the league shaking out:
1. Atlanta Braves (85-54; LW: 1) – Roney: They’ve used another impressive winning stretch — 8-1 in their past nine games — to keep the top spot. Jordan Schafer has been a nice spark atop the lineup.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (83-56; LW: 3) – Zuckerman: From 9 1/2 games back on June 22 to nearly single-digit magic number on Labor Day. Staggering.
3. Boston Red Sox (84-57; LW: 4) – Roney: Their eight-homer barrage last night tied a franchise record set in 1977. David Ortiz chipped in two, raising his season total to 26 — and leaving him just 73 short of 500. At age 37, is there an outside shot he gets there?
4. Detroit Tigers (81-59; LW: 5) – Hughes: Miguel Cabrera’s abdominal injury has to scare the Tigers, it may also be the only thing that can slow him down in the MVP race.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (81-58; LW: 6) – Hughes: There’s going to be a ton of competition for NL manager of the year, but leading Pittsburgh to its first winning season since 1992 should earn it for Clint Hurdle.
6. Texas Rangers (80-59; LW: 7) – Zuckerman: Lost 2 of 3 to A’s, but they’ll get another crack at Oakland next weekend.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (80-59; LW: 2) – Hughes: The Cards are well on their way to making the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. Meanwhile Albert Pujols’ contract looks worse and worse every day.
8. Oakland A’s (80-59; LW: 10) – Zuckerman: Is Josh Donaldson the most under-appreciated player in baseball? He’s certainly on the list.
9. Cincinnati Reds (78-62; LW: 8) – Hughes: After this week the only good team the Reds will play is the Pirates whom they face six times over their last 18 games.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (77-61; LW: 9) – Roney: Wil Myers hit another two home runs last night — Tampa Bay looks to have another middle-of-the-order stud for several seasons to come. If Evan Longoria can stay healthy, they’ll be scary together as Myers progresses.
11. New York Yankees (75-64; LW: 13) – Roney: Why can’t they just have a real down year, the way the rest of baseball does every so often? At just 2.5 games back in the wild card, the Yanks are refusing to go away.
12. Cleveland Indians (74-65; LW: 11) – Hughes: Cleveland picked the wrong time to slow down with the Royals making a late season push.
13. Baltimore Orioles (73-65; LW: 12) – Roney: They’re not out either, but their unsuccessful road trip has definitely set them back.
14. Kansas City Royals (72-67; LW: 16) – Hughes: They’ve become the hottest team in the AL Wild Card race, but their schedule is brutal starting this weekend: Tigers, Indians, Tigers, Indians, Rangers.
15. Washington Nationals (71-68; LW: 14) – Roney: Tanner Roark has been valuable out of the bullpen — and now we’ll see if he can spark the Nats from the beginning of games when he makes his first big league start on Saturday.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks (70-68; LW: 15) - Zuckerman: A quiet, but fantastic, August for Martin Prado: .375, 30 RBI.
17. Los Angeles Angels (64-74; LW: 19) – Zuckerman: Suddenly playing well. But way too little and way too late.
18. Colorado Rockies (66-75; LW: 17) – Zuckerman: Back to the old Rockies Way: 1st in the NL in hits, 2nd in runs, 3rd in homers … 14th in ERA.
19. Toronto Blue Jays (64-76; LW: 23) – Roney: They’ve shut Joey Bats down for the remainder of the season — just another reminder of what a lost year this has been, after so much hype and hoopla.
20. Philadelphia Phillies (63-77; LW: 18) - Roney: Last night’s game was emblematic of much of Philly’s season — a lineup full of unfamiliar names, an aging star who looked nothing like himself, and Chase Utley continuing to produce through it all.
21. New York Mets (63-75; LW: 20) – Roney: Speaking of teams fielding anonymous lineups, someone named Josh Satin terrorized the Nats this past weekend. It’s never a good sign when your No. 3 hitter inspires a Google search.
22. San Diego Padres (62-77; LW: 21) - Zuckerman:Will Venable: Another quietly under-appreciated ballplayer.
23. Seattle Mariners (63-76; LW: 22) – Zuckerman: The good news: King Felix is signed through 2019. The bad news: He needs a lot more help around him.
24. San Francisco Giants (62-77; LW: 24) – Zuckerman: After such a precipitous drop-off, they’re going to need to re-think things heading into 2014.
25. Minnesota Twins (61-77; LW: 26) – Hughes: They finally said goodbye to Justin Morneau and nearly traded Josh Willingham. This offseason they should probably break out the dynamite and start over.
26. Milwaukee Brewers (60-79; LW: 25) – Hughes: Milwaukee has been playing spoiler in the NL Central, taking two of three against the Reds and Pirates in late August.
27. Chicago Cubs (59-80; LW: 27) - Hughes: A former second round pick, lefty Travis Wood could be the future of Chicago’s rotation.
28. Chicago White Sox (56-82; LW: 28) – Hughes: Paul Konerko passed Cal Ripken, Jr. on the all-time homers list with his 432nd career bomb this week. He’s been an underrated star for many years.
29. Miami Marlins (52-86; LW: 29) – Roney: Jose Fernandez’s impending shutdown robs the Marlins of their most compelling player, but it’s probably the right move from a baseball perspective.
30. Houston Astros (46-93; LW: 30) – Zuckerman: On pace to finish 54-108.
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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