As NFL heats up, final stretch for Major League Baseball

Baseball expert from New York shares his MLB playoff predictions

By Dave Nasongkla

For most sports fans, September means the start of a new NFL season. But for others, it’s the final stretch in a long MLB season as contending teams push towards a playoff birth.

Let’s start with the American League. For years the AL East has had the New York Yankees finishing first and leaving the Boston Red Sox fighting with other teams for the Wild Card. But this season’s standings are telling a different story. Boston sits atop of the East with the Yankees hanging on to a wild card lead. When the season is over, expect the Red Sox to finish with at least a six-game lead over the Yanks. However, the Yanks only sit two and a half games out thanks to young studs Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, and have made September extremely exciting, making the Sox sweat it out.

Everyone was talking about the Detroit Tigers taking the AL Central and being a shoe-in for the playoffs through the first half of the season, but how the tides have turned. Detroit is a whopping seven games out of first behind the surging Cleveland Indians, but only three and a half games out of the wild card. I don’t expect the Tigers to catch the Indians, but they have a good shot at making the wild card. Their offense has been consistent all season and the pitching staff has been as well. They need to keep it up if they plan on making a playoff run.

Behind the Red Sox, the Los Angeles Angels may be the best team in the American League. They’ve got a commanding seven and a half game lead over the Mariners in the AL West and show no signs of slowing down. With the recent power surge of Garrett Anderson, and the consistent bat of Vladimir Guerrero and Chone Figgins, expect the Angels to go deep into the playoffs.

The Mariners on the other hand have cooled off tremendously down the stretch, even putting together an eight game losing streak, giving up their wild card lead to the Yanks, who seem to always be there in October.

AL Playoff Prediction: Red Sox, Indians, Angels and Yankees.

On the other side of the baseball realm, in the National League, the race to the playoffs is much tighter. Who would have thought that the St. Louis Cardinals would even be in the playoff hunt with the horrendous baseball they played in the first half? But nonetheless, they are only a mere two games behind an iffy Chicago Cubs team in the NL Central, and the Milwaukee Brewers who have dropped off but somehow only trail the Cubs by a half game. The division is up for grabs, but watch the Cubs down the stretch to make a surprise run into the playoffs.

The West is just as tight with three teams really trying to make a push. The San Diego Padres have played some good ball since the all-star break and are only a game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. However the Padres have a three game lead in the wild card and do not look to be letting up. The Diamondbacks have a mix of young stars and veterans who, I believe, will hold off the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Padres down the stretch.

The Philadelphia Phillies looked great against their division rivals, the Mets, with a four-game and a three-game sweep, and are now down only a game and a half. I see the Mets winning the NL East, but just barely. The only thing standing in their way is their bullpen. There have already been at least seven games in the past two weeks that the Mets bullpen has lost for their starters. The bullpen needs to step up and start holding down other teams in the late innings of they want to get far in the playoffs and perhaps the World Series.

NL Playoff Prediction: Mets, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Padres.