Two weeks to go! What we’re most excited about in the final 14 days of the MLB season

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There are just two months to go in the 2021 MLB standard time and we are pumped.

There is a thrilling Countrywide League West race raging amongst baseball’s two most effective teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The wild-card races are crowded in both equally leagues, with 3 American League East teams — the Boston Pink Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays — entrance and centre. And then there are the gamers hunting to set the ending touches on — or make a late force for — each of the postseason awards, from MVP to Cy Younger and Rookie of the Calendar year.

So what has us most enthusiastic about these final 14 days? Which teams have the most at stake? Which conclude-of-period storylines aren’t getting as much focus as they have earned? In shorter: How will it all shake out as September turns into October?

We questioned ESPN MLB gurus Bradford Doolittle, Alden Gonzalez, Jesse Rogers and David Schoenfield to remedy all those inquiries and more as we get set for some of the most important baseball online games of the calendar year so much. Next halt: the playoffs!

What are you most fired up about in the ultimate two months of the standard time?

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Doolittle: There are some pleasurable races for playoff slots and seeds, but I’m essentially a lot more amped for the stretch run on the AL hitting leaderboards than nearly anything. Can Salvador Perez become the first major catcher and Kansas Metropolis Royal to strike 50 homers? Can Vladimir Guerrero Jr. catch Perez and Jose Abreu in the RBI column and win the Triple Crown? Can Shohei Ohtani come to be the very first legitimate two-way player to direct a league in homers considering that Babe Ruth? I locate these are the issues I continue to keep checking in on as just about every night’s game titles play out.

Gonzalez: The AL wild-card race. This was basically a 3-way tie between the Yankees, Crimson Sox and Blue Jays when Friday began, and a few of critical head-to-head matches remain. The Purple Sox face the Yankees this weekend and the Blue Jays perform the Yankees subsequent 7 days, but just about every video game these groups play relocating ahead will aspect high stakes. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Aaron Judge, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole, Robbie Ray and so numerous other stars that make up these supremely gifted rosters will be enjoying in force-packed times down the stretch, and nothing at all is extra enjoyable than that. The AL East is a juggernaut, and it’s only fitting that three of its teams will progress into the postseason. The issue is: Which 1 will not?

Rogers: The NL wild-card race. If the St. Louis Cardinals defeat out the two the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds, that will be quite one thing. And it ought to value Jayce Tingler his occupation. The Cardinals had as a lot of accidents to their beginning employees as the Padres did but held the line while obtaining healthier. The way to do that, with a less gifted roster thanks to injuries, is to beat the poor teams. Coming into the weekend, the Padres have been just 40-39 towards minus-.500 teams. The Cardinals have been 50-31. Those figures have almost nothing to do with the change amongst the two divisions the groups reside in.

Schoenfield: The Phillies’ four-recreation winning streak ended Sunday and the Braves’ 4-match dropping streak did, way too, but Atlanta’s five-recreation lead has quickly shrunk to a two-video game guide. Which is exciting, but my preference continues to be the NL West race, where the Giants and Dodgers preserve taking part in at an unbelievably higher amount. They are accomplished playing 1 a further, so this is a basic scoreboard-seeing race. Certainly, the loser nevertheless receives the wild card, but both teams want to steer clear of that participate in-in match. Everybody has an feeling on no matter whether they like or dislike the wild card, but this is a reminder of why ending in first is so critical and why a excellent division race is however the most effective baseball has to give.

Which team has the most at stake?

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Doolittle: The Yankees. It really is a mixture of aspects: title drought, payroll, aggressiveness at the trade deadline, preseason expectation and the glare of New York by itself. Even though it would be a wild-card berth, enjoying on into the postseason would stave off a great deal of grief for that group. Provided that lacking out on a wild-card slot probably implies a fourth-put end in this year’s AL East, the calls for sweeping alter would be blaring if that occurs.

Gonzalez: The Yankees, a group with the second-optimum payroll in the activity and regularly the greatest anticipations. They doubled down in July, parting with prospective clients to receive Anthony Rizzo in his last months right before totally free agency. Lacking out on the postseason would not just be a disappointment it would set off significant issues about the make-up of this roster and how it desires to evolve in buy to very seriously contend once again. And there are no straightforward answers there.

Rogers: The Padres. Jayce Tingler and his gamers have been as well centered on reeling off a huge acquire streak as an alternative of taking it just one activity at a time. Perhaps they acquired down on on their own after the division grew to become out of attain. They really should genuinely be down if they’re sitting down at property although the Dodgers perform the Reds or Cardinals in the wild-card match. The latter crew was ready to pack in the season when it traded for starters Jon Lester and J.A. Happ, but time was on the Cardinals’ facet and they have taken benefit. Heads should really roll in San Diego if the Padres never make it. You are not able to say the exact same about Cincinnati or St. Louis. The Yankees have to be 1a in this dialogue.

Schoenfield: One more vote for the Yankees. There are youngsters who just concluded their Minor League occupations who have never observed the Yankees in a World Series. Given the preseason anticipations and the new operate of crushing playoff disappointments — the Match 5 American League Division Sequence loss to the Rays in 2020 with Gerrit Cole on the mound, the Jose Altuve house operate in the 2019 American League Championship Collection, the 4- shutout loss in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS — a Environment Collection-much less period, permit by itself a single devoid of a playoff overall look, could lead to Brian Cashman rejiggering the roster, the manager, and the coaching team.

Which storyline isn’t really acquiring as a lot focus as it should really?

Doolittle: I wouldn’t say that this has not gotten any notice, but nonetheless a great deal it’s garnered, it truly is not sufficient: What Max Scherzer has carried out for the Dodgers is past unreal. With his 7 shutout innings at Cincinnati on Sept. 18, Max Scherzer owns a .78 Period above 9 commences with the Dodgers. That is the greatest 9-commence extend of his significant-league vocation, besting a run he had in 2019 for the Nationals that ended on July 6 of that year. Scherzer was a initially-ballot Hall of Famer in advance of the trade — an assertion that I really don’t assume lots of would dispute. In spite of that actuality, he dropped into a high-stakes division race and introduced the most dominant extend of pitching in his profession. He’s been so great that it really is practically horrifying to look at him get the job done. He is just that dominant.

Gonzalez: Bryce Harper and Fernando Tatis Jr. are seemingly hashing it out for the NL MVP, but Juan Soto has been wonderful for a flailing Nationals staff. He has an absurd .525 on-base share since the All-Star break and owns a .990 OPS for the period, trailing only Harper and Guerrero. He’s carrying out this in his age-22 time, after batting .351/.490/.695 via the shortened 2020 year. All those Ted Williams comps really don’t seem to be so farfetched.

Rogers: Houston’s dominance. As terrific as the Rays are, and as scorching as the Blue Jays have been, it can be the Astros who have the most effective operate differential in the American League. They have been in 1st location seemingly eternally and every time Oakland or even Seattle has built a run, the Astros have carried out the very same. Here’s the scariest stat for playoff opponents: Coming into the weekend, Houston was 43-31 versus furthermore-.500 teams. That is a greater get percentage than the Rays, Giants and Dodgers have.

Schoenfield: The Brewers have been so considerably out in entrance of the NL Central for so very long that, most likely aside from Corbin Burnes, they haven’t gained substantially attention as they are worthy of. No, their operate differential just isn’t as impressive as that of the Giants/Dodgers/Astros/Rays/Blue Jays, but this is a workforce developed for October, with the terrific trio of Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta, possibly the most dominant closer in the sport in Josh Hader furthermore the capacity to combine and match Eric Lauer, Adrian Houser and a deep bullpen. They will need to get Willy Adames back again and healthier for the postseason, but this crew can acquire the first Globe Collection in franchise background guiding its pitching-and-defense components.

Will any races be determined on the ultimate day? Will there be any ties?

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All occasions Jap

Wednesday, Sept. 22
Giants-Padres, 10 p.m. on ESPN

Friday, Sept. 24
Cardinals-Cubs, 2 p.m. on ESPN

Doolittle: Equally look like powerful options, if only since of the cluster of teams competing for wild-card places in each leagues, not to mention the neck-and-neck division title race among the Giants and Dodgers moreover the quickly incredibly hot race in the NL East with the Phillies and Braves. In the AL, you’ve got obtained a five-crew cluster for two spots in the wild-card race — all 5 are within just four online games of every single other in the reduction column. In the NL, you’ve obtained four groups inside four game titles of every other competing for one particular place. The Cardinals showed this weekend how rapidly a staff can make some separation, but even in the previous two weeks, the outlook in all of these races could transmogrify in excess of the class of a couple days.

Gonzalez: I feel the Giants and Dodgers are destined to go right until the last day, potentially even outside of that. There have been much more than 20 occasions considering that the start of August when the Dodgers have received and have not been capable to gain any ground on the Giants. It’s only fitting that these two longtime rivals settle it in Sport 163.

Rogers: The AL wild card might be decided the working day following the remaining working day. So of course, it will appear down to that last Sunday — at minimum.

Schoenfield: Indeed, with 4 races in participate in — three teams (and probably the A’s) for two AL wild playing cards, the second wild card, additionally the NL East and NL West — I think there is a 50/50 prospect we get some form of tiebreaker on Monday. If you genuinely want chaos, we get the Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, Reds and Padres all finishing with the very same report, making a five-way tie for the NL East and the 2nd wild card (and possibly an NL West tiebreaker to boot!). Arrive on, baseball gods, we will need this.

Which staff is heading to acquire the NL West?

Doolittle: When I keep on being steadfast that the Dodgers are far better than the Giants, and all people else for that subject, the easy truth stays that San Francisco has the existing edge and has proven zero inclination of regressing to preseason anticipations. There are no remaining head-to-head meetings in between them, so at this level, the math really a little favors the Giants. Who am I to argue with math? But… with the direct down to one particular recreation, if I feel the Dodgers are the superior workforce, then I kind of have to decide them.

Gonzalez: I continue to say the Dodgers, even nevertheless the Giants have led for so very long and really received the time collection (just scarcely). The Dodgers are rolling with a rotation of Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias for these remaining two weeks a lineup that includes Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Will Smith and a bullpen with Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly and Corey Knebel. From a pure expertise perspective, they are not possible to match. And I’ll roll with expertise.

Rogers: It’s going to be the Dodgers. San Francisco held out as lengthy as they could but L.A. is a device right now. Championship hangovers ordinarily stop all through the 2nd half and the Dodgers are no distinctive.

Schoenfield: We maintain waiting around for the Giants to at least bend, but their 2nd-finest month was August (19-9) and their most effective thirty day period has been September (13-5 so much). People six remaining game titles versus the Padres suddenly you should not glance so difficult with the Padres self-destructing — and in public, as we observed Saturday evening with Manny Machado yelling at Tatis. The Giants keep off the Dodgers, 106 wins to 105.

Who are your wild-card picks and why?

Doolittle: The Dodgers … and three other teams. Want more? Ugh. Great. In the NL, I however imagine the Padres are the most gifted of the five teams angling for the next wild-card slot, even with their improv rotation. But the Cardinals are the only a single of those people teams playing winning baseball in September and they just intestine-punched the Padres all weekend. Right now, I am getting them. In the AL, geesh, it can be like taking in soup with a fork. Just about every time you feel the race is starting off to make clear, somebody receives incredibly hot and somebody else goes into the tank. The Yankees are wavering following obtaining pounded in two residence games towards Cleveland around the weekend, but they have series left versus each Toronto and Boston to make up the hole. I am going with the Yankees and Blue Jays.

Gonzalez: I will decide the Yankees and Blue Jays in the AL, and I have the Reds profitable the 2nd wild-card location in the NL. The Padres’ remaining program is just too tough, and their rotation is banged up at the wrong time. If the Reds keep on to get what they received from Luis Castillo on Friday, they’re a harmful team.

Rogers: St. Louis will prevail in the NL. Its final 13 video games will occur from a Brewers workforce that is clinched and a Cubs team that is bad. Counting on wins towards teams with much less to engage in for is often hazardous, as the Reds proved by hardly winning 1 of 3 in opposition to the Pirates lately, but the Cardinals are the Cardinals. They commonly prevail when it can be shut. In some way, someway, the Yankees will squeak in with the Blue Jays. And somehow, someway, the Purple Sox will not.

Schoenfield: The Yankees complete with a six-sport road trip to Boston and Toronto and then a few at dwelling towards the Rays. They have no online games still left from the Orioles. The Red Sox end with six video games against the Orioles and Nationals. The Blue Jays have a 4-sport collection versus the Twins and complete with a few video games at property versus the Orioles. I’ll go with Boston and Toronto. In the NL, I’m reducing the Padres. If the Braves, Phillies, Cardinals and Reds all end up tied, the system is basic: The Braves play the Phillies for the NL East title whilst the Cardinals and Reds enjoy to stay in the race. The loser of Braves/Phillies plays the winner of Cardinals/Reds for the wild card. There is no recent components if the Padres are also in that combine. My head hurts.