It’s hard to believe that the Major League Baseball season is entering its final month, but, as the calendar turns over to September, two teams have already been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention – sorry Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals fans – and some key pennant races remain intact.
With plenty still left to be decided, theScore’s MLB editors teamed up to jot down their bold predictions for the home stretch of the 2018 campaign:
Dodgers miss the playoffs
For the first time since 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers will miss the postseason. Despite acquiring Manny Machado and Brian Dozier, Los Angeles is unable to overcome its struggling bullpen to overtake the Arizona Diamondbacks in the division, and fall short of landing a wild-card spot. By current standings, this may not seem that bold, as the Dodgers currently occupy third place in the division, behind the Colorado Rockies as well. However, the club still leads the division in playoff probability with a 74.2 percent chance of making the postseason and a 56.6 percent chance of winning the division, according to FanGraphs.
The Dodgers bullpen owns the eighth-worst ERA in the majors over the last month, and not even All-Star closer Kenley Jansen has been immune to struggles, or health issues. The Dodgers control their own destiny with 15 games remaining against the Cardinals, Rockies, and D-Backs, but can’t get hot enough to overtake any of the three in the standings. The last time the Dodgers missed the postseason, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were rookies. – Brandon Wile
Mookie Betts pulls away for 40-40 Triple Crown season
Trout may be the greatest all-around player of the last half-century, but Mookie Betts is making a big-time case for this title – and he’s about to put the finishing touches on what might be the greatest single season ever to perhaps push ahead of the Angels star.
The 25-year-old Betts is currently battling teammate J.D. Martinez for the AL Triple Crown. Martinez’s chase of history seems to be gathering most of the attention – he is further ahead in homers, after all – yet it’s Betts who has the chance to do something even more historic. In addition to the outside shot at the trifecta, Betts is only one homer and four stolen bases shy of a 30-30 season, something that hasn’t been done in MLB since 2012. And the extra-exclusive 40-40 club, which contains only four members, isn’t totally out of the question either.
By the time he’s through in September, Betts – the AL’s current batting leader – will have not only caught Martinez in both homers and RBIs to win Boston’s first Triple Crown since 1967, but he’ll have also recorded the fifth 40-40 season in baseball history. These historic feats have never been accomplished together, as Triple Crown winners in the live-ball era haven’t been known for speed (the stolen-base record for a live-ball era Triple Crown winner is Rogers Hornsby’s 17 in 1922). If Betts manages to pull it all off, he will have put together a truly historic season that will stand up against any individual feat in both baseball and professional sports history. – Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb
Rays stun everyone and claim the second wild-card
Who’s better than the Tampa Bay Rays right now? While their deployment of relief pitchers as game-openers and their ridiculously thin payroll have garnered the bulk of headlines, it’s hard to argue with the on-field results. They’re 17-9 since the start of August and recently rattled off an eight-game winning streak to announce their presence with authority. While the gap is wide in the American League wild-card race – the Rays trail Oakland by eight games for the second wild-card spot – it hasn’t shaken their confidence. Ace Blake Snell said on Sunday that he can see his squad challenge for a playoff spot, and why not? They’ve been giant killers throughout the second half, especially after dealing Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates at the deadline.
One thing decidedly in the Rays’ favor is that 10 of their remaining games come against the Toronto Blue Jays – against whom Tampa has gone 7-2 this season – and three against the Orioles. With seven combined games against the Yankees and A’s, the path for the Rays to stun the baseball world is there, however narrow it may be.
A Rays playoff push may seem unlikely, perhaps even absurd, but it’s worth rooting for. If it happens, expect the Hollywood rights to be optioned within a month after the end of the season. – Jason Wilson
NL features 7-way tie for 2nd place, anarchy ensues
While the Chicago Cubs are far and away the best team in the National League – and set to soon have Kris Bryant back – literally everything else in the Senior Circuit is a toss-up, so let’s get nuts: the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, and Los Angeles Dodgers all finish tied. Here’s a table of how those teams will have to perform the rest of the way in order to finish with 89 wins.
|TEAM||CURRENT RECORD||RECORD TO FINISH 89-73|
So the Phillies, Rockies, and Dodgers would have to go on a bit of a tear, while the Cardinals would have to come off of their hot streak and cruise the rest of the way at .500.
In the event this actually happens, the Braves and Phillies would play a one-game tiebreaker to decide who wins NL East. Then, the NL West would need an extremely convoluted method to determine its division winner, involving which team has the edge in head-to-head records. The Diamondbacks currently hold the advantage against both Colorado and Los Angeles. That would now officially create a five-way tie for the two wild-card spots. Anarchy. – Michael Bradburn
Edwin Jackson starts AL wild-card game
13 teams. 16 years in the majors. And a career that appeared to be over.
When the regular season concludes for the Oakland Athletics, 34-year-old right-hander Edwin Jackson will be handed the nod by manager Bob Melvin for one of the most important starts of his career.
With Sean Manaea’s shoulder still throbbing and Trevor Cahill’s inability to pitch on the road, Jackson will get the wild-card game start over fellow veteran Mike Fiers. He’ll be hoping to help Oakland advance to the American League Division Series for the first time since 2013.
Since signing a minor-league deal with the A’s in June, Jackson has helped stabilize a mix-and-match rotation in Oakland, giving them a 3.03 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 12 starts, spanning 68 1/3 innings
The postseason start will be the journeyman’s first in six years. He last started at Yankee Stadium in 2012 as a member of the Washington Nationals. In that outing, Jackson allowed two earned runs on seven hits in six innings. – Bryan Mcwilliam
(Pictures courtesy: Getty Images)