(CBS Chicago/CBS Local Sports) — With a month remaining in the 2019 MLB season, half of the division races seem essentially over. Certainly no team is catching the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. The New York Yankees, 9.5 games up in the American League East, and the Houston Astros, nine games ahead in the AL West, control their own destinies. What will happen in the AL Central, not to mention the NL East and NL Central, remains to be seen.
Still more drama is unfolding in the wild card race, where multiple teams in both leagues continue to vie for a spot in their league’s play-in game. The National League has seven teams with realistic wild card hopes. The American League has four. Intra-league series between contenders in the coming weeks will have a lot to say about the teams that survive.
The Yankees’ season seems destined to continue into October, and has for awhile now. The long ball is a big reason why. And in August, which still has a lot of baseball left, the team set the record for most team home runs in a month.
This week’s baseball report looks at the wild card races in the National and American Leagues, and highlights another home run record in a 2019 season dominated by the dinger.
National League Wild Card Race
The NL wild card race remains tight, with seven teams within five games of two spots. The Washington Nationals (73-57) and Chicago Cubs (69-61) hold those two spots, but that could change, and then change again.
The Nationals just swept the Cubs in a weekend series and could still catch the Atlanta Braves, who they trail by 5.5 games. The teams have two series remaining. But before that, the Nats, 8-2 in their last 10 games and scoring as they please, will face the Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins. The runs should continue for Washington.
The Cubs only trail the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals by three games, but they can’t seem to maintain any consistency. Such has been the case for much of the season. And a trip to New York to face the rejuvenated Mets hardly seems like the answer.
The Philadelphia Phillies (68-62), New York Mets (67-63), Milwaukee Brewers (67-64), Arizona Diamondbacks (66-66), and San Francisco Giants (65-66) all lurk within striking distance of the wild card.
The Phillies have two upcoming series with the Mets and a late-season set with the Nats. None of those will matter if they keep losing to teams like the Marlins. Miami dropped 19 runs on them Friday, which is just embarrassing.
Scheduling has presented the Mets with an opportunity. They’re just two games out of the wild card, and the next 12 games all come against teams above them in the race. Can their hot bats and strong rotation keep them in the hunt? This coming stretch could make or break their season.
The Brewers, 5.5 games out in the NL Central, could catch the Cardinals and Cubs. And it could happen this week, with their next five games pit them against one of those two teams. Of course, Milwaukee will have to do better than last night’s 12-2 loss at the hands of St. Louis.
The Diamondbacks and Giants remain alive, even as they square off this week. Arizona won the first of two games last night, 6-4. Their schedules, despite series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, both have opportunities to pick up games. But going .500 the rest of the way, as they have so far, won’t be enough.
American League Wild Card Race
The American League wild card looks much less complicated, with the Cleveland Indians (76-56) clinging to one spot and the Oakland Athletics (75-55) and Tampa Bay Rays (76-56) essentially tied for the other.
The Indians trail the Minnesota Twins by just 3.5 games, after pulling themselves back into contention. They could very easily take over control of the AL Central in the coming weeks, especially with two three-game series between the clubs in September.
The A’s trail the Houston Astros by nine games and probably can’t make up the difference. The wild card is their only realistic ticket to the postseason. Likewise, the Rays aren’t going to catch the Yankees. But they have the pitching to stay a wild-card contender over the next month. They really just need to be ahead of the A’s and Rays.
Beyond those three teams, only the Boston Red Sox (70-62), at six games back, have any real shot. The Red Sox have lacked consistency all season, and it’s hard to see them finding it now. But you can never really count out the reigning World Series champions, who, in theory, could get hot. Taking two of three from the San Diego Padres is certainly a step in the right direction.
Yankees Set Home Run Record For Month
As the long balls continue to fly, the Yankees set the team record for the most home runs in a calendar month. DJ LeMahieu accomplished the feat on the third pitch of Sunday’s game, sending a pitch from the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw over the left field fence.
The Bronx Bombers added two more to set the record at 61, nine of them coming in their series with the Dodgers. The 1987 Baltimore Orioles and 1999 Seattle Mariners held the previous record of 58. And with five games left in the month of August, the record will likely be broken again.