This weekend features several head-to-head teams vying for position in the September race for the postseason. I won’t use the “six pack” metaphor, as it is very overused, but there are six great series to watch which can change the shape of the divisional and wild card races.
6. Padres at Dodgers. While the NL West is loaded with OK-at-best teams, San Diego is beginning to pull away from the pack, and the Dodgers are tied for second place, 7 games back along with San Francisco. If San Diego can go into Chavez Ravine and leave with three wins, they may put this division out of reach of any of the other teams to catch them again.
5. Twins at Indians. This Cleveland team is hot. Hot, hot, hot. They went into Detroit and didn’t meet much resistance from their young Central opponent. They swept the team in a four game series and took the Wild Card lead from the Yankees. Now they come back home to Cleveland and host Minnesota, who is hanging on for dear life. The Twins have their back to the corner with a five-and-a-half game deficit in the Wild Card, and the Tribe should not take them lightly, especially because they are 7-9 against the Twinkies this year.
4. Braves at Nationals. After Washington’s improbable start, they came back down to Earth in August as just another good NL East team, but after leveling off in late August as a competitor, they dropped three straight to division foe Florida. They are now four games back in the Wild Card and need a good series against the Braves, who are pulling away in the East with a six-game lead over Florida.
3. Marlins at Phillies. The other sexy NL East match-up features the second- and third-place teams who are beginning to hope only for the Wild Card. Florida is a half-game behind WC-leading Houston and Philly is two-and-a-half back. With Houston’s easy schedule, both of these teams have to play to win and not hope for losses on the other side.
2. Angels at White Sox. This the only series that features two division leaders. Chicago has the best overall record in the AL with a sizable lead on Cleveland in the Central division. But they are 5 games ahead of Boston for the overall lead, and they should be looking ahead to not only claiming home field advantage throughout the playoffs (AL gets home-advantage in the World Series) but also setting up their rotation for the first round. Meanwhile, the Angels are only a game ahead of Oakland (who visit the Rangers) and cannot rely on the Wild Card to be there in case they fall to second in the West.
1. Red Sox at Yankees. It doesn’t matter who else is playing. This is the marquee series. The Yankees are four games behind Boston and a half game behind Cleveland, who swept Detroit in a four-game series, for the Wild Card. If this series doesn’t make you salivate, then hopefully you are holding out for the next time they play together, which is the final series of the season.