Score another win for parity.
With a month left in the major league baseball season, more than half of the league’s 30 teams have a shot at the postseason. The wild card races are filled with contenders, six teams within five games of the American League lead and five teams within two games of the National League lead.
The Los Angeles Angels, with the best record in the big leagues, are trying to leave the Oakland A’s in the dust in the AL West, and the St. Louis Cardinals lead the Milwaukee Brewers by one game in the NL Central.
It should make for some fun scoreboard watching as the final month of the season unfolds.
Here’s how the divisions look and who has a chance to still be playing in October:
On Aug. 10, the Angels were four games behind the Oakland A’s. Since then, they’ve gone 15-4, including a four-game sweep of the A’s over the weekend and lead the West by 4 1/2 games. The Angles have the best record in the majors despite losing two of their starting pitchers (Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards) to injury in the past month.
The Royals’ game with the Indians was postponed in the 10th inning on Sunday night (with KC trailing 4-2), which left them a half game ahead of the second-place Detroit Tigers. The suspended game will be finished on Sept. 22 at Cleveland. The best young outfield in baseball, led by Alex Gordon (.280, 18 homers, 63 RBIs) has helped the Royals hit .263 as a team, third best in the big leagues. They’re a smart-hitting team and have the fewest strikeouts (803) in the league, 126 fewer than the next closest, Oakland.
They have the largest division lead in the majors, 81/2 games ahead of the Yankees. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the best road record in the American League (39-29) and have a league-best 12-5 record in extra-inning games. They’re 20-11 over their past 31 games.
Nine teams, including the division leaders, are in the hunt to win one of two wild card berths. Oakland is the current leader, with a 4-game lead on the Tigers, who are still within striking distance of taking the Central Division title. But if the Tigers falter, Seattle, Cleveland, New York and Toronto are within striking distance.
The Dodgers lead the Giants by two games and rank among the top four in National League in hitting (.260) and pitching (3.30 ERA). With Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw (16-3), plus Zack Greinke (13-8) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6), the Dodgers could intimidate most playoff opponents.
Their 5-4 comeback win against Pittsburgh on Monday put the Cardinals alone in first place for the first time in 2014, one game ahead of Milwaukee, which had at least a share of first since April. In fact, the Brewers led by as many as 61/2 on July 1 but a 1-11 stretch allowed the Cardinals to sneak back in. And a six-game losing streak, including a loss Monday, has the Brewers trending down.
The young talent the Nationals have been stockpiling may be ready to show up in the postseason. Sluggers Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth give them plenty of knock. But it’s their pitching staff and second-lowest ERA (3.13) that sets them apart.
Four teams, including the Central’s Cardinals and Brewers, are lurking just behind the Giants. Atlanta and Miami, while seemingly too far behind to catch the Nationals, still have chances of earning a wild card spot.