We’re pretty sure Magic Johnson is having a good birthday (Happy Birthday Magic!) today. His Dodgers are currently dominating the NL West, 7.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks – a team they once trailed by 9.5 games. Things seemed to turn around when Hanley Ramirez returned and rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig was called up in late May/beginning of June. With a 4-2 win against the New York Mets Tuesday, the Dodgers have won 22 games (of 25) in the second half of the season and have picked up seven straight. Which teams will the Dodgers face heading into the MLB playoffs? Dodgers’ fans will be happy to hear that 19 of their next 22 games are against teams under .500.
The Dodgers are not the only team that has seen an improved pitching rotation and hot bats of late. Starter Mike Minor has proven he can take the Braves deep into the postseason while Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman lead the offense. The Braves hold the best record in baseball at 73-47. Arguably the hottest team in the League right now, Atlanta had won 14 straight before dropping the second game of the series against Miami. The club had swept the Cardinals and Rockies at home and then the Phillies and Nationals on the road. Currently 14 games in front of Washington in the NL East, the two teams will play again this weekend at Turner Field.
While the Tigers have lost three in a row, they were on a 12-game winning streak at the end of July and into August. Detroit is dealing with the suspension of Jhonny Peralta, a leader on the squad and certainly a key position player. Thankfully, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera will be back in the lineup following a scary slide into first against the White Sox. Cabrera is currently leading the AL in batting average and is tied with Orioles Chris Davis in RBI while second in homers. All is certainly not lost in Detroit; in fact, if the Tigers can capitalize on the games they tie late and pick up wins against teams who are playoff contenders, we’ll see them in the Playoffs again.
While the Royals trail the Tigers by 6.5 games in the AL Central Division, they are making noise in and around Kansas City. Winning 13 of the last 17, the Royals have been hot since the All-Star break. Ervin Santana was right, they have owned the second half (or at least shared it). Sure the Royals could still miss the Playoffs but should they make it, it will be their first appearance in 28 years. A big test is up next for Kansas City; the Royals are heading to Detroit for a 5-game series, one that could certainly shake the standings.
The Rangers are making a comeback of their own, winning 11 of their last 13 and climbing from six games down in the AL West to one up. Texas’ bats are hot; Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre have both played a major role offensively. Nelson Cruz could be added to that list last month, but was one of thirteen MLB players suspended last Monday for their use of banned performance-enhancing drugs; the Rangers will have to keep swinging without him. The Rangers’ upcoming schedule is light. With series against five clubs under .500 – the Astros, Brewers, Mariners, White Sox, and Twins – the Rangers should continue to pick up more wins.
Apart from the NL Central and AL West, the Division leaders are separating themselves from the rest of the teams. Yes, some could argue the case of the AL East being that first place Boston leads Tampa Bay by four games. But, while the Red Sox did show some inconsistencies last week – the Rays dropped six straight. We’re in the final home stretch. Will the standings change? Who are your wildcard teams? Also, do you think another team deserves to be listed above? Share with us in the comments!
Image Credit: John Bazemore (AP Photo)