Any September Magic Left?
September 20, 2011
One month ago, I pretty much said the playoff races were over, with only Arizona and San Fran battling it out for the last spot. Now that Arizona has established itself, my eight teams are still positioned for October, but suddenly both Wild Card races are close. Is it a mirage or something real that could take us down to the last game of the season? Let's take a look at the remaining schedules.
Boston Red Sox
88-66, 8 games remaining
5 games vs Baltimore, 3 games vs New York
Naturally, playing the Orioles five more times should be an advantage, but Boston's problems of late also have to do with the lack of healthy starting pitching. Beckett and Lester are likely to get two more starts each, and with Baltimore being Boston's worst opponent since mid-August, 4-4 is a likely finish, putting the Red Sox at 92-70.
Tampa Bay Rays
85-67, 10 games remaining
7 games vs New York, 3 games vs Toronto
The good news is that Tampa is only one game back in the loss column. The bad news is that 7 of the last 10 games are against the best team in the A.L. Expect the Rays to take 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays and 4 of 7 against the Yankees simply because while New York is not going to purposely lose any games, Girardi isn't going to stretch out a pitcher longer than needed or trot out Rivera if an extra day of rest will benefit them in the playoffs. That leaves the Rays at 91-71, one game behind Boston.
87-67, 8 games remaining
2 games vs Florida, 3 games vs Washington, 3 games vs Philadelphia
Atlanta's over-reliance on a young talented bullpen seems to be taking its toll, and suddenly late leads are no longer safe. Strasburg is pitching one of the Nationals games and looking good lately, so none of these series are easy. Ending with Philly may not be kind, because even with nothing to play for, the Phillies are going to let an opponent back into the playoffs, especially if it might bite them back later. I see the Braves winning four more games, finishing at 91-71.
St. Louis Cardinals
84-69, 9 games remaining
3 games vs New York, 3 games vs Chicago, 3 games vs Houston
The Cardinals have a very favorable schedule, finishing against three of the worst teams in the league. After going 11-2 against Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Philadelphia since August 30, it's not stretching it to expect a 6-3 record to finish the season, leaving the Cardinals at 90-72, one game behind Atlanta.
In the end, I'm still expecting Boston and Atlanta to hang on, but as you can see, one more winning streak by the Rays or Cards and we might be looking at yet another play-in game come next Thursday. The problem with trying to come from behind is that near perfection is a must along with needing some help from the team ahead. It's going to be close, but I'm predicting there won't be quite enough magic left to upset the current standings.