Sep 20, 2013, 1:45 PM EDT
The drama is over for the Red Sox and Dodgers, who have officially secured playoff spots. The stakes are much higher in the NL Central, which houses three of the top eight teams in baseball, and in Washington, where the Nats are basically teetering on the tiniest of margins in their quest for the second wild card.
Here’s how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the league shaking out:
1. Boston Red Sox (93-61; LW: 1) – Hughes: Retooling on the fly as the Red Sox did almost never works, no matter the sport. I guess we have our outlier.
2. Atlanta Braves (90-62; LW: 2) – Hughes: Atlanta’s lost nine of their last 14. Their schedule is easy until the playoffs, but they picked the wrong time to cool off.
3. Detroit Tigers (89-64; LW: 6) – Zuckerman: Verlander might wind up their No. 3 starter in postseason. Maybe even No. 4!
4. Oakland A’s (90-63; LW: 7) – Roney: Back-to-back AL West titles looks extremely likely; I would argue that each title was a surprise, and the repeat is one of the most unlikely in recent memory.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (89-64; LW: 4) – Zuckerman: Remaining schedule: 3 vs. Brewers, 3 vs. Cubs, 3 vs. Nats. Keeps them frontrunners to win Central.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (88-65; LW: 3) – Roney: The Dodgers probably celebrated clinching the West by acting like fifth graders leaving school on the last day before summer because they were in last place on July 1. I’d jump in my neighbor’s pool too.
7. Cincinnati Reds (87-66; LW: 8) – Zuckerman: Assuming they reach the playoffs, Billy Hamilton is going to be a huge X-factor for them.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates (88-65; LW: 5) – Zuckerman: After a surprising slip-up vs. Padres, now face huge series vs. Reds this weekend.
9. Washington Nationals (82-71; LW: 12) – Hughes: With 82 wins and nine games left, how many will the Nats finish with on the year? St. Louis snuck in with 88 last season.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (83-69; LW: 11) – Hughes: They are also starting to slip, that could open the door for the Orioles.
11. Cleveland Indians (83-70; LW: 13) – Zuckerman: They’ve won 11 of 16, and now they finish with Astros, White Sox and Twins. Look out for the Tribe!
12. Texas Rangers (83-69; LW: 9) – Roney: Know why the Rangers are falling? Too many ex-Cubs — I believe they have four. Bad juju.
13. Baltimore Orioles (81-71; LW: 15) – Hughes: Their next four games will probably decide their season as they travel to Tampa Bay to play the current AL Wild Card holding Rays.
14. Kansas City Royals (80-72; LW: 14) – Zuckerman: It’s been a really nice season in Kansas City, but it appears they’re going to come up just short.
15. New York Yankees (80-73; LW: 10) – Hughes: Andy Pettite is retiring and probably means it this time. Right? We’ll see.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks (77-75; LW: 16) – Roney: Loved Brandon McCarthy’s response to the Dodgers’ celebration: LA earned it. You don’t want them dancing on your turf, then make sure you win.
17. Los Angeles Angels (74-78; LW: 17) – Roney: The Angels are going to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Instead of Scioscia or DiPoto, my vote: Fire whoever signed Hamilton, even if that’s owner Arte Moreno.
18. San Diego Padres (71-81; LW: 20) – Roney: I was super excited to see that the Padres are facing the Dodgers starting today, but then equally disappointed to find that Ian Kennedy won’t be pitching. I think the Dodgers are probably glad for that.
19. Philadelphia Phillies (71-81; LW: 18) – Hughes: It’s going to be an interesting offseason in Philly. I’m not sure they will rebuild, but they probably should.
20. Toronto Blue Jays (70-82; LW: 19) – Hughes: With all their pitching problems this year, I bet watching Jose Fernandez’ rookie season had to hurt.
21. San Francisco Giants (71-82; LW: 22) – Roney: This is probably Tim Lincecum’s final week-plus in a Giants uniform. Remember when he and Brandon Webb were as good as it got on the mound?
22. Colorado Rockies (70-84; LW: 21) – Roney: Not a great first go-round for rookie manager Walt Weiss. Be interesting to see if Jason Giambi one day makes them regret their decision.
23. New York Mets (68-84; LW: 25) – Hughes: Matt Harvey and the Mets seem confident he can rehab in lieu of Tommy John surgery. It seems like a smart move to just have the procedure, but what do I know?
24. Seattle Mariners (67-86; LW: 23) – Roney: Thanks to my own East Coast Bias, I’ve somehow overlooked the plethora of talented young pitching in Seattle — enough to rival any team in the league.
25. Milwaukee Brewers (68-84; LW: 26) – Zuckerman: Was it really only 2 years ago they were within a game of the World Series? Feels like an eternity.
26. Minnesota Twins (65-87; LW: 24) – Zuckerman: Ron Gardenhire has 12 years at the helm. But 3 straight losing seasons could mean end of the road.
27. Chicago Cubs (64-89; LW: 27) – Zuckerman: They’ll play a role in determining NL Central champ: Final 6 games vs. Pirates, Cards.
28. Chicago White Sox (60-92; LW: 28) – Zuckerman: Going to wind up with their worst record since 1976. At least they haven’t worn shorts this year.
29. Miami Marlins (56-97; LW: 29) – Hughes: Dealing with injuries this year, and stuck in that lineup, Giancarlo Stanton still has 23 home runs. He’s got 116 and he’s only 23.
30. Houston Astros (51-102; LW: 30) – Roney: The last time the Astros made the playoffs, their best player was Roger Clemens. That was six managers ago.
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.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com.
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