MLB Playoff Race Heats Up as the Season Nears Its End

MLB Playoff Race Heats Up as the Season Nears Its End

Robert Higgins, Contributing Writer

With the Major League Baseball regular season coming to an end, the playoffs are officially around the corner.  It is safe to say that October baseball is the best time of the MLB season with sixteen teams competing for a world championship, each one with a legitimate shot at a ring.  A team with a good chance of winning this year is the San Francisco Giants.  With the best record in baseball this season and valuable playoff experience as an older team-they have already won three World Series in the early 2010’sthe Giants are a major contender. 

Not far behind the Giants are their division rivals, the Dodgers, who are looking to win back-to-back championships.  Barely trailing the Giants, the Dodgers have arguably the most talented roster in the entire MLB, thanks to a high payroll and the attractive LA market.  

Even with former MVP Cody Bellinger playing through injuries, the Dodgers still have more than enough starpower.  Recently acquired pitcher, Max Scherzer, has been lights-out in his first ten starts, and Clayton Kershaw, a mainstay on the Dodgers, and Walker Buehler, the likely National League Cy Young winner, adds to one of the most impressive rotations in baseball. 

Another team that looks poised for a deep playoff run, despite its extremely low payroll, is the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays. 

“In my opinion, Tampa Bay is the best team in the American League,” said freshman Alden Ruskin.

Even after their ace pitcher, Tyler Glasnow, underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery, the Rays pitching staff continues to wow.  Power hitters Nelson Cruz and Randy Arozarena have added major pop to the line-up.

On the other hand, the Yankees, division rivals of the Rays, have had a rocky season.  Despite a thirteen game winning streak late in the year, the Bronx Bombers still find themselves battling for a playoff spot with the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox.  

Although star players, such as outfielder Aaron Judge, designated hitter/outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, and AL Cy Young contender Gerritt Cole have all been phenomenal for the Yankees this season, the team has not been able to find consistency hitting or in the bullpen.  These factors, as well a streaky pitching rotation, have led to numerous crushing ninth inning losses.  

Nevertheless, there have been many positives within the franchise.  Nestor Cortes Jr., aka “Nasty Nestor,” recognizable for his mustache, has been a welcome surprise for New York, dealing out strikes with a 2.79 ERA.  Brett Gardner has provided much needed leadership, as the longest tenured Yankee, and has performed decently as a back-up outfielder; shortstop Andrew Velasquez, a hometown kid, also stole the hearts of fans.

“The Yankees will hopefully make the playoffs, but even if they do, I don’t see them getting very far,” said senior Ian Levine.

Meanwhile, New York’s other team, the Mets, have collapsed and quickly fallen out of playoff contention after a promising start to the season.  Untimely injuries to star pitcher Jacob DeGrom and free agent shortstop Francisco Lindor have hurt the team, especially on the defensive end.  Even with the addition of shortstop Javier Baez from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline, the Mets will once again fall short of the postseason.  

The Braves currently lead the NL East, but MVP-contender Bryce Harper and the Phillies trail closely behind, looking to challenge for the playoffs during the final stretch.

The NL wildcard race is just as exciting.  After looking like a lock to miss the playoffs, the St. Louis Cardinals have stunned everyone by embarking on a ten game winning streak; this has put the Cards in control of their own destiny for the final wild card spot with the  Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Diego Padres (once World Series contenders with other NL MVP-contender Fernando Tatis, Jr.) trailing behind.  A great defensive outfield, combined with spectacular power hitting from third baseman Nolan Arenado and outfielder Dylan Carlson has propelled St. Louis ahead of the competition.  

Sitting the closest behind are the Cincinnati Reds.  Cincy needs a big run to surpass the red hot Cardinals, but first baseman Joey Votto and company are up to the challenge.  Breakout second baseman and likely unanimous Rookie of the Year, Jonathan India, has been a pleasant surprise for the Reds.

“The wild card game will be extremely close, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out,” said sophomore Jeffrey Radinsky.

In the AL West, the Astros look prime for another run at a championship, albeit this time without sign stealing.  Designated hitter Yordan Alvarez and shortstop Carlos Correa are a serious problem for any team they face.

The plethora of title contenders makes this MLB playoff season look like one for the ages.