MLB’s Division Races To Watch In September

The dog days of summer are over. Fall is arriving, and so are the final weeks of the baseball season. That means that as the weather cools, division races will start heating up. Here’s what to keep an eye on in each division:

American League East:

The Yankees are still the clear favorites. There is stiff competition, for sure, but New York has built up such a strong lead that it is unlikely that they fall out of first place. The Yankees have shown some vulnerability; they went 13-13 in July and have a losing record in August. But through June 30 they had lost only 21 games, so there is probably enough of a cushion to hold off the Rays (7 games back) and the Blue Jays (8 games).

The team to watch most closely is Baltimore. As hot as the Yankees were in April, May, and June, the Orioles have been in July and August. They are 32-19 the last two months and have a record above .500 going back to the start of June. As things stand going into the final games of August, the Orioles are three games behind Toronto for a wild card spot.

American League Central:

This race will come down to the Twins and Guardians. In theory, the White Sox (6 games back) still have a shot, but there is simply too much going wrong for that team to expect that they will push through all that has plagued them since the start of the season. Injuries have popped up relentlessly, and the most recent development has the team without a manager:

Tony La Russa’s value to the White Sox this season is a debate for another day, but it is probably safe to assume that Chicago ends the year still in third place in their division.

That leaves Cleveland and Minnesota to duke things out. The two teams have swapped spots at the top of the AL Central a few times already this year, and with eight head-to-head games in September, this will be an exciting race to follow. Pay particular attention to the five-game set from September 16-19.

American League West:

It’s all Houston. The Astros have an 11.5 game lead over the Mariners, and even though Seattle has played well in the second half — they are 34-17 since July 1 — that’s probably too much ground to cover. Teams have done it in years past, but most historical precedent dictates that the Mariners have their best shot at a wild card.

On that front, they are in a good position. It will be a tight race in the American League; the Mariners will probably have to work to fend off the aforementioned Orioles. Otherwise, it’s a race between the also-rans in the East and Central. Both the Rays and Blue Jays would get a wild card spot if things ended now, but the winner of the AL Central would impact this race as well.

National League East

Who’s ready for a Mets-Braves showdown? That’s where this division is headed, sort of. Scheduling did not work in favor of making this race more exciting, as the two teams will play each other for only one series down the stretch. They have a weekend slate September 30-October 2. Otherwise, this division might come down to how well either team handles their other opponents.

Neither team has a particularly tough schedule to close out the season, so the only other thing to watch in this division is the Phillies in the wild card race. They have a narrow lead over the Padres and Brewers headed into Wednesday’s games.

National League Central

The Brewers have really faded since a hot spring. They went 32-19 in April and May but have been a mostly sub-.500 team since. Still, Milwaukee is just six games back from the Cardinals, and those two teams will play each other four times in September. That’s not a lot, but enough to shake up the division standings depending on how they handle the rest of their September schedules.

The Brewers currently trail the Padres by 2.5 games for a wild card spot, but San Diego has rebounded from a rough July (11-14) by going 15-13 with one game remaining in August. The Brewers of 2018 might have been able to get hot in September and make a serious run — they barely missed getting to the World Series — but it’s not likely that they’ll find that magic again this season.

National League West

The least interesting division race? Without question. The 90-58 Dodgers aren’t getting touched. They have an almost 20-game lead over the Padres and will most definitely coast into the playoffs. What they are able to do once they get to the postseason is another question, but Los Angeles all but guaranteed their place in October baseball weeks ago.

Whether or not the Padres can sneak in via the wild card by holding off Milwaukee is the most intriguing question in this division. That, and what-might-have-been if Fernando Tatis, Jr. had stayed healthy and/or not gotten himself suspended for PED use. San Diego risks becoming a perennial also-ran despite putting together rosters that, on paper at least, look like winners.