The calendar has flipped to September which means the final month of the MLB regular season is here. It is the final stretch which means anything can happen. Based on the current standings it looks like it is going to be another incredible finish. This article is going to dive into the expected results in the American League.
Predicted Winner: Tampa Bay Rays
The American League East has been a battle all season long. Four of the five teams have been in contention for playoff positions. The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays have been fighting for the division title while the New York Yankee and Toronto Blue Jays have been trying to stay afloat in the wild card race. For the majority of the season, it seemed like the Red Sox would go on to finish with the best record in baseball. Since the end of June, the Sox have fallen and Rays have risen to the top.
The Rays stand eight games above the Yankees with a tie for the best record in baseball at 84-48. They set a franchise record for most games over .500 in a season which says everything one needs to know about this team. This success should not be a major surprise after this group of misfits went to the World Series in 2020.
They continue to prove that they do not have to pay an insane salary to put together an incredible team. Looking around at the team fans would be hard-pressed to say there are a bunch of big names. The biggest name on the team is Nelson Cruz and he was not a member of the Rays until July. Outside of Cruz they are getting great production from superstar Randy Arozarena, Brandow Lowe, Austin Meadows, and rookie Wander Franco, just to name a few.
The biggest issue that any team has to worry about each season is injuries and that has been a recurring topic for this team. Earlier in the season, the rays got tough news when they found out their ace Tyler Glasnow had to get Tommy John Surgery ultimately ending his season. What makes a really good team is the ability to push past these types of setbacks. The Rays have put together a solid pitching staff which will continue to push this team to new highs.
Predicted Winner: Chicago White Sox
There is not even a question of the team that will take the American League Central title. It was almost a guarantee from the second spring training began that the Chicago White Sox would be the team to beat, not just in the central, but in the AL.
What this team is capable of is mesmerizing, they are the team that has brought a new definition to fun. It is one of the youngest teams in baseball with studs like Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, and Andrew Vaughn. To make a team this young so good requires mentors and this team has an incredible core of veterans. These big names include Yasmani Grandal, Craig Kimbrel, Liam Henricks, and former MVP Jose Abreu.
They are coming into September with a record of 77-56 which puts them a solid 10 games up on the second place Clevland Indians who are having a very mediocre year. It can easily be argued that this team is not really that good since they have to constantly face the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins who are all have seasons to forget. It helps that they play all these bad teams whom they are a combined 30-19 against. Yet, they are also 10-4 against the Rays, Red Sox, Astros, and Athletics. Despite the small sample size they are proving they can take on some of the best teams around the league.
This is one of the most powerful teams in baseball and yet their run production is rather inconsistent. In the month of August, they had 10 games where they scored seven or more and 11 games where they scored three or less. If this team wants to hammer through the playoffs they are going to have to make sure their offense is working in all aspects as they face teams with very reliable pitching.
Predicted Winner: Houston Astros
The American League West is very similar to their National League counterparts. There are three teams battling for the title of AL West champs. The Houston Astros claimed the title from 2017-2019 before the Oakland Athletics took the title in 2020. It looks like it is going to be one of these two teams once again and with only a month left the Astros are in the best position to reclaim the top spot.
With one month to go the Astros sit five games up on the A’s with a 78-54 record. August was not the best month for Houston as they went through a stretch where they lost nine of 15. This came on the heels of a 13 game stretch following the All-Star break where they won nine of those games. They went from hot to cold with the blink of an eye. This is a frustrating thing for any first-place team and there is no time to feel comfortable especially since they have to finish the season against the Rays and Athletics.
Despite these issues, this has been one of the most consistent teams in baseball and it is no question why. They, as usual, have big bats up and down the lineup. Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel are both in the top five in batting average with .315 and .311 respectively. Then there is Yordan Alvarez who has 89 RBIs which puts him at number eight in baseball. Not to mention Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are in the top 10 in runs scored. They are getting huge production from all of the big names.
What wins games through is pitching and for most of these great teams like the Brewers or Dodgers or White Sox, their pitchers are in the top spots of all the major stats. Houston’s pitching has run under the radar because instead of putting up huge numbers they are getting consistent performances from any person they throw out there. It shows because as a team they are fifth-best in baseball with a 3.67 ERA. A team like this will cause plenty of problems as they move through the playoffs.
The team with the best opportunity to claim the top American league wild card spot is the Athletics. The A’s are a lot like the Astros with how streaky they can be. Oakland started the season terribly before going on a 13 game winning streak. They are coming off of a six-game losing streak which is a rather common occurrence. From May through June they had zero losing streaks of four or more games in a row. In July and August, they had three such streaks.
It is hard to vouch for this team to win the division with these more common losing streaks. Despite that, it does not take away from their success outside of these streaks. They are lucky to be led by some of the most reliable defensive and offensive players with Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Mark Canha, and Starling Marte. Despite these big names their main issue has been big hits in crucial moments. If they can get consistent production in September this team could be dangerous in the playoffs.
Although they do not have Cy Young candidates they have consistent pitchers which is just what every team hopes for. Thie rotation includes Frankie Montas (3.66 ERA, 10 wins), Sean Manea (3.97 ERA), and Cole Irvin (3.74 ERA). They are not putting up gaudy numbers, but they are putting up performances that put their team in the position to get the win. Unfortunately, struggling relievers have been another factor in their recent losing streaks. If they can get length from their starters in September they will be in a good position to move into the top wild card spot.
The American League, much like the National League is going to have plenty of teams fighting for the second wild card spot. It could be the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners or the Toronto Blue Jays. All four of these teams have plenty of reasons to feel hopeful, but the team that has the best chance is the Red Sox.
The Red Sox when from potentially the best team in baseball to starting September one game up from Oakland in the second Wild card spot. Their pitching went from dominant to sluggish and their offense has grown rather inconsistent. In May and June, the Red Sox went 33-21 which is very good, but in July and August, they went 25-28 which is a hard pill to swallow. The collapse was slow and it started to mount to the point where the red flashing lights started going off.
Despite the struggles, they are still a team with a great group of bats in the lineup like J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Hunter Renfroe, and Alex Verdugo. All four of these guys are hitting above .260 on the season and three are over 20 homers on the season.
If their record continues in the direction it has been going they will not come close to a playoff spot, but this team has the ability to go on a winning streak and there is no better time to do it than in September.
The American League race will be tight all the way up until the end. It would not be very surprising if the rare game 163 made an appearance. In September anything can happen and it is the time where teams prove if they can handle the pressure.
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