MLB: The Pennant Race and Playoff Preview

With less than a week to go in the MLB regular season, we’re down to the wire leading into the playoffs in what has been a pennant race for the ages.

In the National League, the Mets, Cardinals and Giants are all fighting it out for two spots. How crazy is it that it could all come down to a blown call in a Cardinals-Reds game that benefited St. Louis?

On Thursday, the Cardinals were tied with the Reds after blowing a lead in the top of the 9th. With Yadier Molina at the plate and Matt Carpenter at first, the catcher smoked a ball to left field that appeared to bounce off the fence for a ground-rule double, yet Carpenter came around to score. Before the Reds could protest, the umpires were gone faster than one of those dudes on Maury when they find out they aren’t the father.

The Giants don’t really have anyone to blame but themselves if they wind up on the outside looking in; after earning the league’s best record heading into the All-Star Break, the Giants could be the first team to follow that up by posting the league’s worst record following the festivities. Giants star pitcher Johnny Cueto kept pace ahead of the Cardinals on Thursday after settling down following a rocky start against … the Rockies, no pun intended. (Editor’s Note: Oh come on now!) Cueto struck out 11 in 7 innings and the Giants got two scoreless from four relievers. Their bullpen has been a mess since the break and appears to be settling down. Hey, it’s an even year, right? All the Giants have to do is squeak into the playoffs the way they did the last couple times they won the World Series and they’ll probably win their fourth.

There WAS a three-team race in the AL East about a month ago, but the Red Sox managed to run away with that one. After having trouble with their pitching staff, they’ve posted a sub-3.00 ERA the past month to pull away from both the Blue Jays and Orioles. Barring a complete implosion, they’ll face each other in the one-game Wild Card playoff.

The Rangers will enter the playoffs the surprise with the AL’s best record. Nobody saw that coming. Even less likely was maybe the Indians making the playoffs. Cleveland hasn’t won a playoff baseball series since 2007 – but maybe they’ll follow LeBron’s lead and shock the world this October.

The Cubs are looking very much like the team that was favored to win the World Series heading into the season. They’ve been dominant from April to September and are positioning themselves for a deep postseason run.

Could you imagine Jon Lester being part of World Series winners for BOTH the Red Sox and the Cubs? With a rotation that features Lester, ace Jake Arrieta and former postseason hero Jon Lackey experiencing a resurgence, it’s far from out of the question.

Speaking of storybook endings, what about the Dodgers winning their first World Series since the year Kirk Gibson went yard off Dennis Eckersley in the last year that the legend, Vin Scully, is calling games? Though he’s declined to do any postseason matchups, what a fitting end it would be for him to end in a year the Dodgers win it all.

The Nationals have a sneaky good squad but they’ve always managed to find ways to falter. They’ve owned the best record before but have yet to make it out of the NLDS in their two previous postseason trips as the Nationals.

The only thing that stands to get in Chicago’s way is another Steve Bartman incident or the Curse of the Billy Goat. Who’s making bets? Well, we are now.

Postseason Predictions

NL Wildcard: Giants over Mets
AL Wildcard: Blue Jays over Orioles

NLDS: Cubs over Giants in 4 / Dodgers over Nationals in 4
ALDS: Blue Jays over Rangers in 5 / Indians over Red Sox in 4

NLCS:> Cubs over Dodgers in 6
ALCS: Blue Jays over Indians in 5

World Series: Cubs over Blue Jays in 5

CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN!

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