BOSTON, MA - Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox walks back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
It's the final ten days of the season, people! Who has pennant fever? You do. You have pennant fever!!! The only prescription is to check out what the remaining schedules look like for all of the contenders, and then watch every single one of the games. PENNANT FEVER.
Alright, look, everyone gets it. There's one race left. There are still several teams still mathematically in the race, but it's all Red Sox/Rays right now. There's a chance for one of three other teams to make a historic run at a miracle playoff berth, so they're included because of quotas or something. But it's mostly Red Sox/Rays.
Unless something weird happens, that is. It is baseball, after all ...
Rays - 2.0 back of Wild Card
After scratching and clawing to get within two games of the Red Sox in the Wild-Card race, here's the Rays' reward: seven games against the Yankees. There's a decent chance that at least one of those Yankees series is going to feature a team with nothing to play for -- helllllo, Eric Chavez starting at catcher just to annoy the Red Sox! -- but it's still a tough, tough schedule for the rest of the season.
Red Sox - 2.0 ahead in Wild Card
vs. Orioles (4)
@ Yankees (3)
@ Orioles (3)
So you think, oh, man, what an epic collapse that would be. What an unbelievable collapse. After being anointed the best team in baseball -- or something close to it -- the Red Sox could actually miss the playoffs entirely.
Then you think, oh. Orioles.
But, wow, what if the Red Sox choke, right? What if the Red Sox, who are 4-13 so far this September, can't limp into the playoffs with a starting rotation they found on Craigslist?
Then, that's right: Orioles.
Rangers - 4.5 ahead in AL West
Of course, the Orioles helped the Rangers out, taking two of three from the Angels. It wouldn't be baseball if it were predictable. There are two series for the Rangers against the pitching-heavy M's and A's, and both staffs have pitchers who can shut down any offense. But the Rangers are a combined 22-9 against those two teams this season, so it would take a pretty serious plot twist to make the AL West interesting before that final series against the Angels.
Angels - 4.5 back in AL West
@ Blue Jays (4)
vs. Athletics (3)
vs. Rangers (3)
The template is to hope something funny happens before the series against the Rangers -- if the Angels are two or three back, then a sweep could get them past their 162nd game. It would take a lot of help from the Mariners and A's to get to that point, and both of those teams are the types to get a shoelace caught in their zipper when going to the bathroom, so they can't really be counted on to help themselves, much less another team.
Diamondbacks - 5.0 ahead in NL West
Tough road for the D-Backs, who have to face a Pirates team gunning for the NL Central crown ... wait, this copy of USA Today is two months old. Yeah, it looks like the Diamondbacks have a pretty favorable schedule, closing out the season with nine straight home games, with three against the imploding Pirates.
Giants 5.0 behind in NL West, 4.0 behind in Wild Card
@ Dodgers (3)
@ Diamondbacks (3)
vs. Rockies (3)
It would take a miracle. But the Giants just swept a four-game series in Colorado, which is the cosmic equivalent of a 20-game winning streak. If the Giants can win four straight at Coors Field, which has traditionally been a house of horrors for the Giants, anything is possible.
Well, except for an NL West title, most likely. But if the Giants can gain a game or two over the next series, they'll at least have the ol' but-if-we-sweep card to play in that series against Arizona.
Braves - 3.5 ahead in Wild Card
The Braves are hanging on to their Wild Card lead despite a rotation that's currently populated by a collection of fertilized embryos. The Nationals have been murder at home, and the Phillies are the Phillies, so they shouldn't be divvying up those postseason shares just yet.
Still, it's a four-game lead with nine to play. That's a pretty overwhelming advantage. Also, the Phillies might not be the Phillies, as they'll be rest whomever needs the rest, and setting up their postseason rotation. The Braves will probably see Kyle Kendrick for one of those games. Heck, all of them. If you don't have anything to care about for the rest of the regular season, Phillies, don't care about it with style. That's what I say.
Cardinals - 3.5 behind in Wild Card
And just when you think the Braves are safe, you notice the Cardinals' remaining schedule. Quite the collection of miscreants and ne'r-do-wells. It's worth noting that it's the Cubs and Astros who knocked the Giants out of the NL West race, so those teams do have some measure of pride. Some measure of talent? Not so much. But don't sleep on the pride.
The Braves should probably be just a touch worried.