The proverbial dust has settled on the trade deadline and now it's time to get after the stretch run. Remember the so-called "dog days of August?" We had August baseball last season, but it was after just about one week of the regular season, so it most decidedly was not the dog days. Now, we're back.
Let's zero in on the biggest races to watch this month.
The Rays and Red Sox just got done with a three-game series in which the Rays swept and took back control of first place in the AL East. The closest divisional race in baseball is currently just a 1 1/2-game separation. They still have 10 games left against each other with the last one coming Sept. 8, so an awful lot of the action atop the division is going to happen here this month before the scoreboard watching begins.
I don't think we will witness this being stretched to a three- or four- team race with the Yankees and Blue Jays more settling into a race I'll profile below, but it's possible with all the head-to-head action going on. The Yankees are seven back while the Jays are eight back. They'd need to get hot, obviously, but it's not impossible.
Even if it remains just the Red Sox and Rays, it's a dandy.
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Few would question the Dodgers being one of the biggest winners of the deadline. They grabbed Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. They also got down-the-road rotation depth in injured lefty starter Danny Duffy. Oh, and Corey Seager returned from injury. The talent here is off the charts. They haven't even gotten any offense from former MVP Cody Bellinger all year. They are capable of so much more than being 21 games over .500.
The Dodgers still, however, trail the Giants by three games. And the Giants added Kris Bryant. They have proven they have staying power, haven't slowed down through multiple injuries to important players and have stood toe-to-toe with every good team they've played. There's no reason to think they're going anywhere. This is a legitimate race.
There will be a lot of scoreboard watching this month, because the rivals don't play each other again until Sept. 3.
Could the Padres make headway? They aren't going well at all and have lost Fernando Tatis, Jr. to another shoulder issue. They also play the Diamondbacks 10 times through Sept. 1, the Marlins three times and have a three-game head-to-head shot at the Dodgers.
AL wild card
As things stand, the loser of the Red Sox-Rays melee has the top wild card spot. Right now the A's have the second spot, but the Yankees are just 2 1/2 games out. The Mariners and Blue Jays are 3 1/2 out, too, so we could be looking at a four-team race for one spot. My hunch is the overachieving Mariners are done now with having lost four of five, including two walk-offs from the lowly Rangers. I don't think the A's, Yankees or Blue Jays go quietly and all three did good work at the trade deadline. The Jays and A's have a three-game series in Toronto in September. The Yankees and Jays face off seven times in September. That means just a bunch of scoreboard watching in August. There is a four-game series between the A's and Yankees in Yankee Stadium later this month, too, so that means a chance to make headway and, in the Blue Jays' shoes, to root for a split.
|What a great move to swoop in and land Kris Bryant. He's such a great fit and has already paid dividends.||--||102-54|
|They had their shot at number one but lost the series to the Giants. Come at the king, you best not miss, right?||--||91-65|
|This is the most talented team, but they have to start playing like it. They just lost a series to the Giants. They are a different team now, of course, but they have to show it before the rankings reflect it.||1||100-56|
|Emphatic statement series in sweeping the Red Sox.||2||97-59|
|The Brewers offense is averaging over six runs a game since the All-Star break and they just added Eduardo Escobar's thunder. What if Christian Yelich comes back off the COVID list and returns to form?||2||94-62|
|I love Kyle Schwarber for that lineup once he's back from injury, but shouldn't they have gotten some more rotation depth? The good news is Chris Sale is coming back soon.||3||88-68|
|Liam Hendriks AND Craig Kimbrel? That's hardly fair.||2||89-68|
|My level of concern for Fernando Tatis, Jr. is off the charts. This is the third time this season it has happened.||--||78-78|
|Starling Marte is already a big help, Matt Olson continues an amazing season, the front office did a good job adding complementary players and lots of other positives, but where in the world is Matt Chapman on offense?||2||85-71|
|Man, what a start for Anthony Rizzo. He's going to get a hero's welcome in the Bronx on Monday.||2||89-67|
|Back in the Rogers Centre, the Jays are 3-0 in their real home and were 22-22 in their fake homes. They have 34 home games left. Time to make up for lost time.||2||87-69|
|The division likely isn't possible, but the Reds have crept up to within four games of the second wild card.||2||82-75|
|That's a 3-5 week at home, but the good news is it doesn't seem like the Braves or Phillies are all too interested in making a move upward in the standings.||4||73-82|
|I understand the Mariners were playing way over their heads and were overwhelmingly likely to crash, but I still can't believe Jerry Dipoto traded his closer the day after an epic comeback win over the Astros. That's always going to lead to a clubhouse mutiny because the players aren't buying into "we aren't for real and will come crashing back down to Earth."||4||86-70|
|If there was any hope left for the division title, it probably left the building Sunday in Guaranteed Rate Field. There is a five-game series against the White Sox in Cleveland in late September, though.||1||77-79|
|Is it just me or was the Cardinals trade for Jon Lester right in front of the trade deadline simply just trolling Cubs fans? It makes no sense at all for this Cardinals season.||2||87-69|
|The Braves have alternated wins and losses the entire second half. Seventeen games!||2||83-72|
|The Phillies scored 15 runs on Sunday without hitting a single home run. That was the first time in franchise history they pulled it off since 1941.||3||81-75|
|Part-time action, sure, but catcher Max Stassi is having himself a year at the plate, slashing .310/.385/.555 with 10 homers in 49 games.||2||74-82|
|Well, that was ripping off a band-aid, huh? It wasn't too long ago the Nationals were in the NL East race. Now they've shipped out seemingly half the roster. Poor Juan Soto!||1||64-92|
|Miguel Cabrera hit three homers last week, including his second multi-homer game of the season. He had two last year, also, after having none from 2017-19. Anyway, that was a bit of a digression. The main point for bringing up Cabrera's homers is that he now has 497 career homers. Three more and he's the 28th member of the 500 Home Run Club.||1||75-81|
|Playing time opened up and Rafael Ortega is taking full advantage of it. Before Sunday, Ortega was hitting .386/.438/.591 in his previous 15 games. Sunday he hit three homers.||2||67-89|
|Surely the Rockies could have gotten something more valuable than one compensation pick for Trevor Story? This seems like a terrible miss by a bumbling front office.||--||71-84|
|Whit Merrifield, Royal for Life.||--||71-85|
|It seems like they did really well to get Jesus Luzardo from the A's in the Starling Marte trade, though the A's giving him up gives me at least a little pause.||--||64-91|
|I'm just not sure where things go from here with Byron Buxton. He's a free agent after next season. It's so hard to nail down his value. When he plays, he can be a superstar. But he's out with injury so much and has been inconsistent. What could the Twins even get back for him if they trade him this offseason? It's a tough one.||--||69-87|
|He's since added other hits, but last week, Rodolfo Castro became the first player ever whose first five career hits were all home runs. He's apparently a huge fan of isolated power.||--||58-98|
|Signs of life! The Orioles have won nine of their last 14 games.||--||50-106|
|Well that was a fun two days from Jonah Heim, huh? He hit walk-off home runs both Saturday and Sunday. Amazing.||--||57-99|
|We might have a race here. The Diamondbacks are on pace to go 50-112. The worst record in franchise history came in 2004, when they were 51-111.||--||50-106|