The playoffs are quickly approaching, and several teams are still fighting it out for a bid to optimistically make the October Classic. Three National League teams have already clinched playoff berths in the Dodgers, Giants, Rays, and Brewers. The magic number for other clubs gets lesser by the day. The playoff race is far from over, in fact it’s just getting started. Let’s breakdown these intriguing storylines.
Toronto Blue Jays
The hottest team in baseball has to be the Toronto Blue Jays. Led by MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Jays offense has been on a tear in the month of September. A record of 15-3 this month has skyrocketed them in the second Wild Card spot as it stands today. On August 31st they were 4.5 GB for a WC spot and have since then passed three teams, the Yankees, Mariners, and Athletics respectively. The free agent additions of George Springer and Marcus
Semein have paid off immensely, both are solidified in the heart of a scary offense that can do some damage come playoff time. The young Blue Jays can stay in any game come playoff time; it’s the pitching will ultimately decide the fate of this squad.
Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray has been one of the better pitchers in the MLB this year and him on the bump backed by a terrifying offense in a one game playoff, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them advance.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cards are another team that have heated up over the course of the last three weeks of play. After a huge three game sweep over the plummeting Padres Sunday night, they have leaped into the 2nd Wild Card spot. They are 12-6 in the month of September and currently riding an eight-game win streak. A much-needed hot streak was needed for this club. Expectations were higher coming into the year and the acquisition of Nolan Arenado added to that. Yadier Molina‘s final days playing baseball are winding down, meaning one last ride may be in the works. Tyler O’Neill has been arguably the Cards best player down the stretch and his .333 AVG and 7 HR’s in September. Tyler has been essential to the success they have had as of late. But with 6 games remaining against the first-place Milwaukee Brewers it will be a difficult stretch heading into the playoffs.
As it stands today, the Cards have a 3-game lead of the Cincinnati Reds for the last playoff spot. It will not be easy but if the Cards keep up there winning ways, making the playoffs is a realistic possibility. If they win that game over the San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers who have the two best records the MLB, will be determined later on.
New York Yankees
The Yankees without a doubt have the most at stake as the regular season winds down. After a thirteen-game win streak in the later days of August, they have gone 7-15 since. The struggling Yanks have moved back 4.5 games in the
Wild Card standings, the Red Sox and Blue Jays have both passed over them. On paper the Yankees have a very impressive roster compared around the entire league, so it would be interesting to see what General Manager Brian Cashman decides to do if they in fact miss the playoffs. Expectations could not have been higher coming into this season for the bolstered Yanks. They decided to strike a deal for Gerrit Cole‘s teammate in Pittsburgh, Jameson Taillon. Uniquely, he has been a solid back of the rotation wing but not what the Yanks were ideally hoping for. Corey
Kluber has been a pleasant surprise when on the mound in addition to the re-signing of D.J. LeMahieu. Even with a slight dip in numbers D.J. will contribute everyday in the lineup.
It’s not all bad in New York but such high expectations have not helped what was promised in March. Not to mention the Yankees still have 9 games versus the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays so if they play well in those nine games, the playoffs will not be out of the question. I still believe they have a shot because of how loaded the roster is when healthy but based on their play all season, it might be too late for a comeback. These next two weeks will decide if Manager Aaron Boone will be at the helm this upcoming year.
San Francisco Giants
Without a doubt the San Francisco Giants have been the surprise team of the 2021 season. Manger Gabe Kapler in his first full season as manager, has completely changed the culture in San Fran. They currently have the best record in baseball at 97-53, the Giants are contenders for the upcoming World Series. Which is something I would’ve never thought I would be saying seven months ago. The trade deadline addition of 4x All-Star and NL MVP Kris Bryant has solidified the idea of the Giants going for it this year. Coming into the year it did not appear the Giants would be contending anything besides maybe the #1 pick in June’s MLB Draft. But the signing of Kevin Gausman has been arguably the best of last offseason.
The former top prospect in the Orioles organization received a one-year $18.9 Million deal as a reclamation project, hoping a change of scenery would help benefit him. It could not have worked out better for General Manager Scott Harris, as he reached his first All-Star game this past July and mans a 14-6 record and a 2.78 ERA. Undoubtedly, he will be the top guy in the rotation as the Giants hope for success in the playoffs. The resurgence of Buster Posey has helped this lineup incredibly, as he looks like the NL MVP he once was. The Giants are a well-balanced team and are going to wreak havoc this postseason.