The expanded playoff format in MLB contributes to exciting playoff competitions in both the American and National Leagues.
PHOENIX — Rookie sensation Corbin Carroll was all smiles Wednesday, a few minutes after stealing his 50th base of the season, cracking his 25th homer and leading the streaking Arizona Diamondbacks to their fifth straight win.
If the 22-year-old is bothered by the intense competition of September playoff-chase baseball, there is no evidence of it. With only ten days left in MLB’s regular season, the playoff races are heating up, especially in the packed National League.
Carroll expressed that this is the enjoyable aspect.
Naturally, it relies on the direction in which you are progressing.
For every team rising this time of the year, there’s almost always another team going in the opposite direction. During their five-game winning streak, the D-backs took three straight from the Chicago Cubs and two more from the San Francisco Giants, two teams backsliding in the NL wild-card picture.
After Wednesday’s games, the Giants’ record dropped to 76-76, and they require a small miracle to secure a spot in the postseason.
“I cannot reword”
The race for the NL wild-card has been closely contested for most of the past month, as the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Marlins, Reds, and Giants compete for three playoff spots. This is the exact type of excitement that MLB anticipated when they increased the number of playoff teams from 10 to 12 before the 2022 season.
As the 162-game regular season nears its conclusion, there are several other storylines to consider.
The playoff competition in the American League is not as packed, but it remains highly competitive.
The AL West division is witnessing a tight competition between the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, and the unexpectedly impressive Seattle Mariners. As of Wednesday, these three teams were separated by only half a game in the standings. At the same time, they are also vying with the Toronto Blue Jays for a chance to secure an AL wild-card spot.
After all is said and done, three out of the four teams will make it to the playoffs, while one team will not.
“I find it enjoyable to participate in games that hold significance,” expressed Kevin Gausman, a pitcher for the Blue Jays, on Wednesday. “At this moment, every game carries importance and each victory brings us closer to achieving our objective.”
The battle for the NL MVP title remains an intense showdown between Ronald Acuña and Mookie Betts.
Acuña and Betts have very similar statistics in several areas. Acuña has a batting average of .337 with 39 home runs and 100 RBIs, while Betts has a batting average of .310 with 39 home runs and 103 RBIs. Acuña’s exceptional speed on the basepaths may give him an advantage. He currently leads all players in baseball with 67 stolen bases. Betts, on the other hand, has contributed both offensively and defensively, playing in right field, second base, and occasionally shortstop.
Matt Olson, despite having a remarkable season, may not have a fair opportunity due to the exceptional performance of the two players. He has been a valuable asset for the Braves, hitting 52 home runs.
The competition for the NL Cy Young award is tight, especially after Blake Snell from San Diego delivered an impressive performance of seven innings without allowing any hits against the Rockies recently. Snell seems to be the frontrunner, but Zac Gallen from Arizona, Spencer Strider from Atlanta, and Justin Steele from Chicago are also contenders who could present a strong argument with their last one or two starts.
Shohei Ohtani is likely a lock for the AL MVP after arguably the best five-month stretch in MLB history.
However, Julio Rodríguez from Seattle has managed to make his way into the competition with an impressive performance in the second half.
The 22-year-old athlete, who has been selected as an All-Star twice, achieved a batting average of .429 and an OPS of 1.197 in August. His exceptional performance greatly contributed to the Mariners’ chances of making it to the playoffs. Although he has slightly declined in September, he managed to hit 10 home runs in the last month.
The Mariners have been one of the best stories in the sport over the past few months. They were sellers at the Aug. 1 trade deadline – sending star closer Paul Sewald to the Diamondbacks – but defied expectations with a great run of baseball over the next 1 1/2 months.
Logan Webb of the San Francisco team has pitched for a total of 207 innings this season, including a six-inning performance against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday. As of Wednesday, he is the sole pitcher in baseball to have reached the milestone of pitching at least 200 innings.
There are a handful of other pitchers who will probably reach the mark – including Arizona’s Zac Gallen (197 innings) and New York’s Gerrit Cole (192) — but it’s still remarkable how the starting pitcher workhorse has quickly disappeared from baseball’s landscape.
Only a decade ago, a total of 34 pitchers managed to achieve the milestone of pitching 200 innings.
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