Magic numbers

My head hurts and it’s not because of the recent temperature swings. Or the increasing weight of my thesis project. Or last night’s open-bar wedding reception.

The cause of my recent pervasive headache is the MLB playoff race.

It’s dizzying.

It’s across the board.

It’s out of control.

With a week left in the regular season, which ends on Sept. 30, there are only two divisional races locked up (for all intents and purposes), those being Cleveland in the AL Central and Anaheim in the AL West. This leaves four divisions basically up for grabs.

Anything could happen.

All of the talk about magic numbers and clinch-this and choke-that is making me see white spots and fear pinstripes.

Starting in the AL East — where my heart is — it was never really in question.

The Yankees were going to be in the thick of things when September rolled around, the Red Sox’ 14.5 game lead was moot.
Neither you nor I could have looked in the mirror at that point and said, without cowering in shame, “It’s over, Red Sox Nation, the Yankees have collapsed! Smooth sailing, and Godspeed.” Now, after being up by so many games and leading the division for so long, it’s come back around.

The hottest team since the all-star break is bearing down on the Red Sox. It’s a far cry from May.

The good news for both, though, is that each has effectively wrapped up the Wild Card slot — we just don’t know who’s taking it home yet.

The National League race is where things get really interesting.

I’ll just throw some names at you: Mets, Phillies, Cubs, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres. That makes seven different NL teams with a chance of making the playoffs. What is more, in no divisional race is there more than a three and a half game difference.

The Wild Card race? It could go in any direction. Colorado will have the toughest chance, but they are only two and a half games out there.

It’s out of control.

The three biggest things to look for this week, aside from how the NL Wild Card turns out:

1. The AL East. Can the Red Sox hold on to their season-long advantage, or will it crumble in the last throws of the 162-game campaign?

Can the Yankees keep up their torrid pace and overtake their red-footed rivals as AL East champs for the umpteenth time in a row?

2. The Mets. They, like the Red Sox, have had their division in hand for much of the season but each win is harder and harder to come by as the season winds down.

3. The Cubs. Enough said.

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