Our marathon is coming down the final straightaway and we've safely left all the pretenders in the dust. There are still quite a few contenders, of course, and we still have a month left to play in what has been a very exciting 2015 Major League Baseball season. What's left to decide on a team level?
There's the AL East, which currently shows the Blue Jays holding a 1 1/2-game lead over the Yankees. The two clubs have seven games remaining against each other, but man, the Blue Jays just seem like an unstoppable force right now. Can things change? Sure. It's baseball. A fun sidenote here is that Toronto carries the longest playoff drought in the majors. The Yankees have won the AL East 13 times since the Blue Jays last did.
The AL Central is over. Congratulations, Royals, on your first ever AL Central title!
The AL West has a possibly fun race. The Astros in first place is one of the best stories in baseball, but they haven't completely shaken the Rangers, who trail by just three games. The two teams also face off seven more times this season. The Astros definitely have the upper hand, but any time the deficit is less than the number of head-to-head games remaining, there's a decent shot. An added bonus? It's a battle of Texas! MLB's plan to move the Astros to the AL seems to be bearing fruit already.
Are the Nationals completely buried in the NL East? I'd say no, though they hardly inspire any confidence and after yet another debacle on Tuesday night, my "no" is perhaps the most sheepish thing I've ever said. There are six head-to-head games left here, but will the Nationals actually stay within six when excluding these matchups? Tough call. They're 6 1/2 back now and haven't been even a decent team in a while. They probably need a pretty stellar run here and I'm just not seeing it. In all honesty, they feel cooked.
The Pirates still have a shot at the Cardinals in the NL Central, though it's an outside shot as they chase a team that appears to be invincible. Beginning with a three-game series this weekend, the Pirates do have six more shots at the Cardinals, though, with a six-game deficit. Again, I'm not seeing it, but there's at least a shot here and the Pirates are most certainly not cooked.
The NL West, as we discussed last week, could be shifted. The Dodgers have a 5 1/2-game lead, sure, but the Giants' five remaining games against the Dodgers are the only games they have remaining against a team with a winning record. Being able to beat up on a weak schedule this time of year is a huge plus.
In the AL wild card, we're looking at the AL East runner-up as well as the Rangers and Twins -- two teams very few expected to contend this season -- fighting it out with the Rays, Angels and Indians all within five games. There is so much overlap in the head-to-head matchups throughout the month that the jockeying could result in one of the greatest playoff races we've seen, given the number of teams with a chance. Mounting a prediction is absurdly difficult, too.
In the NL wild card, it looks like the Cubs and Pirates (or Cardinals, if there's a Pittsburgh miracle), though the Giants have such an easy schedule from here on out we can't call this thing just yet.
So, yeah, most of our marathon is done, but perhaps the best is yet to come in the regular season. We have the chance for a few fun races, and that AL wild card is such a mish-mash of teams that it's essentially up for grabs. It wouldn't be surprising to see more than a handful of teams to be the one to come out of that.
This is going to be such a fun month. I can't wait.
Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS) or via email: email@example.com. As always, allow me to remind you that if we disagree about something, one of us is either stupid or biased -- maybe both. It's probably not me, either.