The contenders are making their marks and the pretenders are fading away as the MLB postseason picture is getting clearer. There are roughly two weeks to go before the playoffs begin.
Between the red-hot Cleveland Indians, the ice-cold Los Angeles Dodgers and everyone in between, we’ve already had a plethora of great storylines here in September with the best part of the month still to come. As baseball fans, the best we can hope for in late September are postseason races going down to the wire and meaningful games deep into the month.
Most divisions have deprived us of the fun, late-season showdown, but the AL East and NL Central could still develop into a good storyline with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs each enjoying only a three-game lead heading into the weekend. Fortunately, the second Wild Card in both leagues has led to some added intrigue. The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals have a chance in both the division and Wild Card races. In the AL, the Minnesota Twins have started to separate themselves from the lackluster clumping of .500 clubs, but there’s still plenty of time for things to change. We only have two weeks remaining in the regular season, but there’s still plenty of great picks in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests this week.
MLB Pick for Tuesday, September 19: Baltimore Orioles over Boston Red Sox
With the Orioles slumping and the Red Sox well ahead of them in the AL East, this may seem like a stretch. After all, Drew Pomeranz is on the hill for Boston, and he’s had a great year. His numbers are far better than his counterpart, Kevin Gausman.
But the Orioles are a completely different team at home compared to on the road. Baltimore has struggled over the last week, but the O’s have been playing primarily away from Camden Yards. The Boston series offers them a chance to return home, where they’re 44-30. Their power bats play up in the tiny park.
On top of that, while the Orioles have struggled against certain teams this year, the Red Sox are not one of them. In their first 16 head-to-head games, the Birds are 10-6. They have plenty of motivation and no love lost after their beanball wars earlier in the year.
Additionally, Gausman’s 4.83 ERA and 1.56 WHIP are not indicative of how the young right-hander has thrown recently. He was terrible in the first half of the year, but he’s coming off a one-run, seven-inning start against the Blue Jays, and he has allowed two runs or less in seven of his last 10 starts. The last time he faced the Sox, he went 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing only four hits.
As for Pomeranz, that 16-5 record and 3.28 ERA are seductive. He’s faced the Orioles three times this year and has only thrown 16.1 total innings. Even if Pomeranz rolls, the O’s will have a chance against the Boston bullpen.
This could be a close game, but the Orioles should find solace at home with one of their solid starters on the hill and steal a game from the BoSox.
MLB Pick for Wednesday, September 20: Seattle Mariners over Texas Rangers
This series could mean everything, or it could mean nothing for the Mariners and Rangers. Wednesday is the middle contest of the three-game set and could be an important swing game. Both teams cannot afford to lose as they are each slowly seeing their playoff hopes and aspirations fade away.
For Seattle, the biggest issue has been the starting pitching. With a rotation of Triple-A arms most the year, it’s no surprise the Mariners are on the outside looking in on the postseason, but if they’re going to get a late season surge, the return of Felix Hernandez has to play a role.
Wednesday will be King Felix’s second start off the DL. He went 3.2 innings in his first one, giving up one run on three hits against this same Texas Rangers team. Hernandez’s outing was short due to the injury and the lack of rehab options. He threw only 54 pitches, but he will go a bit deeper on Wednesday.
Seattle took three of four from the Rangers a week ago and now will get to play them at home, where they’re an over .500 team. Location, however, hasn’t mattered much in this matchup with the Mariners dominating the season series to date, 11-5.
Getting the start for the Rangers is Andrew Cashner. The right-hander has had a fine season, but he’s striking out only 4.8 batters per nine innings. He’s relied on weak contact. That’s worked—mostly—but he did falter this past week against this same Mariners team. He allowed five runs in 4.1 innings in that game.
Offensively, the Mariners still have a very strong and deep order with much more quality than a power-laden but strikeout-heavy Rangers team.
MLB Pick for Thursday, September 21: Chicago Cubs over Milwaukee Brewers
In what could be Milwaukee’s last effort to make a play at the division, the Brewers will play a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs kicking off on Thursday with Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies on the bump.
The Brewers are at home for this series, but it would be better off at Wrigley Field, at least for Thursday. The 17-8 Davies has been a beast on the road, but not so great at home. His cumulative 3.67 ERA is split with him posting a 2.04 ERA on the road and 5.67 ERA at home. Interestingly, he’s still 8-6 at Miller Park. On the more positive side, Davies is 7-4 with a 2.16 ERA in the second half.
Meanwhile, Hendricks has been—when healthy—the Cubs’ best starter. He’s 6-5 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 121 innings. He’s thrown a quality start in each of his last six games and much like Davies can be expected to keep his team in the game despite not having the best stuff comparable to others in their respective rotations.
On offense, the Cubs have really stepped up their game in the second half. In fact, Chicago has been better offensively in the second half than it was last year. Chicago has scored 20 more runs than the Brewers in September and has a .832 OPS in the second half compared the Brewers’ .702.