Normally by Sept. 23, baseball fans of the area’s three major league teams have long since given up any hope of seeing their team make the playoffs with the most die hard of them spending the last month of the season watching the latest up and coming prospects and trying to find a reason to be optimistic for the future.
Not this year – with less than one week to play in the season, the Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds all three find themselves smack dab in the middle of the playoff hunt with the very likely possibility that all three will make the postseason at the same time for the first time since……. well, forever, or at least dating back to 1900.
The Indians currently find themselves in the driver seat in the battle for the second playoff spot in the American League with a very good shot at over taking the Tampa Bay Rays for the top spot.
Cleveland trails Tampa Bay by just one game while holding a one and a half a game lead over the Texas Rangers for the final playoff spot.
The team that places first in the wild card race will host the team that finishes second for one game to determine who advances to the playoffs.
In the event of a tie with Tampa, the Tribe would lose the tie breaker as the Rays defeated Cleveland 4-out-of-6 times in regular season play.
The Indians appear to have an edge in the schedule the rest of the way as they host the Chicago White Sox for a pair of games on Tuesday and Wednesday before hitting the road for a four game series against the Minnesota Twins to close out the season.
The Twins are next to last in the American League Central with a 65-90 record heading into Monday night’s play, just ahead of the cellar dwelling White Sox (61-94).
The Rays close out the season on the road with three games against the New York Yankees, who still have very slim playoff hopes of their own, before closing the season with a three game series in Toronto.
The Rangers will spend their final seven games at home as they host the lowly Houston Astros for three games before finishing up with four games against the Los Angeles Angels.
The National League is way more complicated and it all boils down to the National League Central battle between the front running St. Louis Cardinals as well as the Reds and Pirates who are currently tied for second just two games behind the Birds.
If St. Louis manages to stay ahead of the other two, a key weekend series between the Reds and Buccos would determine which team will play host for the one day playoff. If somehow either the Cincinnati or Pittsburgh pull even or go ahead of the Cardinals it would open a whole scenario.
If there is a two way tie for first place those two teams would play on Monday to determine the National League Central Division Championships with the other two playing the following day at the home of the losers for the one game wild card playoff. If there is a three way tie for the division title…. lets just hope there is not as the tie breakers get even more complicated although it appears St. Louis will hold the edge based on head- to- head play
The Reds are at home all week, hosting the New York Mets for three before the Pirates come to town for three. Pittsburgh begins the week with three in Chicago before traveling to Cincy, while St. Louis stays home to host the Washington Nationals and then the Cubs for three games series’ to close the season.
Imagine the decisions facing Pirate manager Clint Hurdle and Cincinnati skipper Dusty Baker as they try to make sure they have the right pitchers ready to go for the right games.
Adding to the drama is the fact that the Reds and Pirates have grown not so fond of one another over the past few years with almost 25 hitters being plunked by one another in this year’s 16 games against each other.
While the scenarios are many and the drama builds nightly it figures to be one of the most exciting weeks of baseball that area baseball fans have seen in a very long time.
Mike Morrison is a part-time sports writer for The Marietta Times