As the weather begins to cool off, Major League Baseball begins to heat up

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Many teams still in contention for wild card spot

BY DYLAN BESTLER

Even though the weather is getting cooler, Major League Baseball players, coaches and fans are sweating more than ever now, playing and watching these final games of the regular season.  Some teams have already run away with the division title while other teams are still fighting to earn that wild card spot.

In the National League, the current division leaders are the Nationals in the east, Cubs in the central, and Dodgers in the west. With an eight game lead over the Mets, it is safe to say the Nationals will win the east. However, the National’s starting rotation will have to step in up in the postseason with Stephen Strasburg still injured. Strasburg was 15-4 with a 3.60 ERA. Some key guys to watch down the stretch are second basemen Daniel Murphy and outfielder Trea Turner. Although Murphy has been dealing with a left leg injury as of late, the 31-year old is third in the National League with 104 runs batted in and is second in batting average hitting .347. Turner has played only 62 games with the Nats this season and is hitting .345 with 34 RBIs.

The Chicago Cubs have been the story of the league since opening day. They have already clinched the NL central and are 41 games over .500. First basemen Anthony Rizzo and  third base/outfielder Kris Bryant are two of the favorites for the MVP voting.  Bryant is second in the National League with 37 homeruns and is also hitting .296 with 97 runs batted in. Rizzo is second in the NL with 104 RBIs and hitting .293. The Cubs have a very good chance this year of ending the curse of Murphy the Billy goat and their league-record 108-year drought without a World Series title.

The LA Dodgers currently lead the NL west; five game up on the San Francisco Giants. The Giants were leading for a majority of the season before their second half collapse. The Giants are 23-38 after the all-star break which is horrendous after a 57-33 start. However they are still in contention of making it to the playoffs and possibly even winning the division. The Dodgers and Giants still have four games against each other so anything can happen down the stretch.

As for the NL wild card, as of Wednesday afternoon there is a three way tie between the Giants, Mets and Cardinals. Only two of the three teams can make it. The Mets are dealing with a lot of injuries, especially in their much vaunted starting rotation. Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and now Jacob deGrom are all out. The Mets are hoping for Matz to return for the playoffs but as of now Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon will have to pitch their best in order to make it into the playoffs.

Unheralded Mets rookie starters Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have surprised the league with their excellent performances over the past month, allowing the Mets to go 20-9 since the return of Yoenis Cespedes to the middle of the batting order. Trade deadline acquisition Jay Bruce on the other hand has been a total bust, hitting only .176 in 40 games and posting an embarrassing OPS of only .544.

In the American League, the Cleveland Indians have run away with the central division, now seven games up on the Tigers. Corey Kluber has been in the talks of winning the AL Cy Young award, which is awarded to the best pitcher in the league. He has won 17 games for the Indians and has an ERA of 3.12, fourth in the AL. Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana have been providing the power for Cleveland, they have 34 and 33 homeruns, respectively.

The Texas Rangers made some key trades at the trade deadline to push their team to the top of the AL west. The team has acquired three big names in Carlos Beltran, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez to help their team go 9.5 game ups on the second place Astros and own a 28-18 record since the deadline. Add these three guys to an already stacked lineup that features Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor, Ian Desmond, Elvis Andrus, and some other big names, this team will be scary come October.

The Boston Red Sox are currently leading the AL east by four games over the Orioles. This was a much tighter race but the Red Sox swept the Yankees in a four-game series over the weekend and are 8-2 in their last ten games. David Ortiz and Mookie Betts are having MVP caliber seasons for Boston. Ortiz is third in the AL in RBIs and fourth in batting average (121 RBIs, .318) and Betts is fourth in RBIs and fifth in batting average (108 RBIs, .317).

There are many teams still in serious contention for the two AL wild card spots. The Orioles and the Blue Jays hold the top two spots but the Tigers (1.5 back), Astros (2 back), Mariners (3 back) and the Yankees (3.5) are right on their tail. The Orioles are playing the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees before the season ends. The Blue Jays are finishing a series with the Mariners then have to face the Yankees, Orioles and Red Sox to finish the season. With these tough schedules for the top two wild card teams, anything could happen here in these final games

There is no better weather than fall weather and there is no better baseball the pennant race baseball. September is an exciting time if you’re a baseball fan and we are in for quite a ride during these next two weeks. Buckle up and stay tuned because your team may not be out of the playoff race just yet.

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