Photo courtesy of Jeff Curry | USA TODAY Sports
The playoff picture in the National League is starting to become loaded and packed with teams that all could make pushes for a deep postseason run. On the American League side however, it’s become a two-team race for home-field advantage in the chase for the pennant.
Here’s where the 10 best teams stand with two months to go in the regular season.
On Deck: Minnesota Twins (57-51, last week: 4-3)
By the slightest of margins, the Twins continue to hold the lead in the AL Central but with wildly-inconsistent pitching, Minnesota had to make some moves at the Trade Deadline. We’ll see if those additions will pay off to help keep the wins afloat for a playoff spot.
10. Seattle Mariners (59-51, last week: 4-3)
Seattle walked into New York and brought a fresh face in Luis Castillo, who picked up a win in his first start as a Mariner. However, the team tapered off and threw two games away against AL West rival Los Angeles Angels to have a record of just 4-3 last week. Seattle takes on the Yankees again Monday-Wednesday, which will be pivotal for their momentum with a favorable schedule for the rest of the month.
9. San Diego Padres (61-50, last week: 5-3)
The Padres brought in shiny new pieces with Josh Hader, Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury last week. While they snagged five wins in Colorado, they were brought back to the earth in Los Angeles as they were cleanly swept by the Dodgers and were outscored 20-4. The offense must get better if San Diego seeks to hold on to their Wild Card spot and they should get back on track with a favorable schedule approaching.
8. Philadelphia Phillies (60-48, last week: 5-1)
The ultimate litmus test awaits the Phillies in August with seven games against the NL East-leading New York Mets. This is the month for Philly to solidify their playoff position with a slight edge in the second Wild Card spot and 16 of their next 23 games coming against teams under .500.
7. Toronto Blue Jays (60-48, last week: 3-3)
The highs never get too high and the lows never get too low for the Blue Jays it seems. On paper, it’s a World-Series contending roster but Toronto has yet to put together a stretch this season that’s really jumped as a sustainable winner. A tough stretch awaits Toronto with a pivotal road series against the Baltimore Orioles before 10-straight days of matchups split between the Cleveland Guardians, Orioles (again) and the Yankees.
It’s heating up in the AL East.
6. St. Louis Cardinals (60-48, last week: 6-0)
The hottest team in baseball?
Winners of their last seven and 9 wins in their last 10 games, the Cardinals are primed to control the NL Central with the Milwaukee Brewers fading. The acquisition of SP Jordan Montgomery elevates an already-stout rotation led by Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright. With both Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado still trending in the MVP discussion, St. Louis has all the momentum starting the playoff push.
5. Atlanta Braves (64-46, last week: 2-5)
Atlanta continues to fade from the Mets in the battle for the NL East as they dropped four of five games against them over the weekend. However, the Braves aren’t going anywhere in the playoff fold and the latter half of August could serve as their “prove it” time of the season with another series against the Mets, a three-game set with the Houston Astros and a month capper against the Cardinals.
4. New York Yankees (70-39, last week: 1-5)
Once the powerhouse of the 2022 season, the “Bronx Bombers” have yet to win since trading away Joey Gallo and Montgomery. While the losing streak won’t last long, this could be a month that humbles the Yankees with 11 of their next 14 games coming against the Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Blue Jays and Mets.
3. Houston Astros (70-40, last week: 3-4)
A potential ALCS re-matchup between the Yankees and Astros looks better and better on paper as it will be an ultimate clash of top-notch hitting against top-notch pitching. Justin Verlander, at age 39, is the best pitcher in MLB with a 1.73 ERA and 127 strikeouts against just 23 walks. The whole rotation for Houston has carried the franchise as the offense, outside of Yordan Álvarez, has yet to get going.
2. New York Mets (70-39, last week: 6-2)
The Mets are playing their best baseball in years yet don’t tell that to the faithful fanbase who still believe it will all come crashing down at some point. Can you really blame them though?
They should enjoy it for now as Jacob deGrom is as dominant as ever in his first two starts of the season after injury. He struck out 12 across 5 2/3 innings against the Braves Sunday. There’s not much holding back the Mets and they’ll have their most important stretch of the season coming up with 11 games split between the Phillies and Braves after playing the Cincinnati Reds early this week.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (75-33, last week: 7-0)
Winners of their last eight and 11 of their last 12 games, the Dodgers just get scarier as the playoffs get closer and closer. They’ve scored seven or more runs in 11 of their last 20 games and the bullpen continues to stabilize before the imminent returns of Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol, but pitching isn’t at a premium for the boys in blue as the offense continues to rake.
Is Cody Bellinger back?