By Matt Citak
The 2018 MLB campaign is turning out to be a tale of two seasons.
Over in the American League, the closest division race can be found in the AL West, where the Houston Astros hold a 3.5 game lead over the Oakland Athletics. In the AL East, the Boston Red Sox have an 8.5 game lead over the New York Yankees, while the AL Central is a snoozefest with the Cleveland Indians 15 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins.
Things are not much better in the Wild Card race, where the Yankees’ lead over the Athletics is up to 4.5 games for the top WC spot, and the Seattle Mariners trailing Oakland by 5.5 games for the second spot.
Overall, things are not going to be too exciting down the stretch in the American League.
However, the opposite holds true in the National League.
As of the morning of September 5, the NL division races couldn’t be tighter, as each division leader finds itself with no more than a three game lead.
The Atlanta Braves are up on the Philadelphia Phillies by three games, while the Chicago Cubs hold the same lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central with the St. Louis Cardinals still within striking distance sitting 4.5 games back.
Things are even crazier in the NL West, where the Colorado Rockies find themselves atop the division but only 0.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and 1.5 games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In addition to the pennant races coming down to the final few games, the National League’s two Wild Card spots are very much up for the taking. Milwaukee and St. Louis currently hold the two spots in the postseason, but the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Phillies are all within 3.5 games back.
To say the National League race to the postseason is coming down to the wire would be an understatement.
As if the close races weren’t good enough entertainment, the MLB schedule makers decided to bless us baseball fans by having all of these playoff-bound clubs face off against each other in the final few weeks of the regular season.
Atlanta has 24 games remaining on the year. Among those, the Braves take on the Diamondbacks for four games and the Cardinals for three games, before finishing the season with seven of 10 games against the Phillies in what is sure to be the final battle for the NL East crown.
In between Atlanta and Philadelphia’s final two series, the Phillies face off against the Rockies in a four-game series at Coors Field in what could be a fight for one of the Wild Card spots.
Moving on to the NL Central, Chicago has four games remaining against the Brewers, three against the Diamondbacks, and will close out the season at home against the Cardinals. St. Louis still has a four-game series at home against the Dodgers on the schedule, along with one final series against Milwaukee.
But, the most exciting pennant race of them all is surely the battle for the NL West crown, where each team still has ample opportunity to run away with the division.
The Dodgers are seen as the most likely club to take the division, despite the fact they currently find themselves 0.5 games back. Of their 23 remaining games, 13 are against teams vying for a spot in the postseason (six vs. Colorado, four vs. St. Louis, three vs. Arizona).
Colorado’s schedule is a bit tougher, as 17 of the 24 games left are against possible playoff teams (six vs. Los Angeles, seven vs. Arizona, four vs. Philadelphia).
Finally, the Diamondbacks will likely have the most difficult time squeezing into the postseason given their September schedule. Arizona will welcome the Braves to Chase Field for a four-game series before hitting the road for a four-game set in Colorado and three games in Houston. They then return home for nine consecutive games against the Cubs, Rockies, and Dodgers before closing out the season in San Diego.
It remains to be seen who will end up with the National League’s five postseason spots. With each pennant race as close as it is, it wouldn’t be surprising to see each of the three current division leaders lose their lead and wind up watching the playoffs from home.
With so much still to be decided, one thing has become abundantly clear- we are in line for some amazing September action.
So pull up a chair and enjoy, as we get the privilege of witnessing some October baseball a few weeks early.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.