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MLB stretch-run storylines

A quick zoom-out as pennant chases heat up

Colorado Rockies v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

Now fully two weeks removed from the trade deadline, MLB teams know what they have. The sellers sold, the buyers bought, and the season’s stretch run is about to begin.

Twins Territory already has the AL Central 4-1-1: the Minnesota Twins can’t separate themselves enough from the Cleveland Guardians to make it academic, so a playoff berth will likely come down to the seven remaining contests between the squads and whether one of them can actually play solid baseball for longer than a 5-day stretch.

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins
Baldelli vs Francona to decide the division—again
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

But what’s going on in the other divisions? Let’s take a moment to observe as the scoreboard-watching, box score-checking portion of the season commences...

AL East

The Baltimore Orioles in first place & the New York Yankees in the cellar? Nothing to see here—move along. Even the 29-7 rush-out-the-gate from the Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t guarantee them a division championship and it looks to be a fight to the finish between them and the O’s. Every team in this division could finish with a winning record.

AL West

Some things never change in this quadrant: the Oakland Athletics stink and the Los Angeles Angels continue to waste premium talent like Shohei Ohtani. Ho hum. But the Texas Rangers continuing to outpace their southernly nemesis Houston Astros? Exceedingly unexpected. I’ll get an up-close-and-personal look at the Globe Life Field denizens when in town for some Twins/Rangers Labor Day weekend action.

Los Angeles Angels v Texas Rangers
Yep—that again for the Halos
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

NL East

The Atlanta Braves have this division pretty well sewn-up already and look at be the World Series odds-on favorites—our Twins certainly couldn’t put a dent in them. The Philadelphia Phillies & Miami Marlins are making a Wild Card run-of-it and could be tough outs in the postseason tournament. Steve Cohen’s New York Mets? Yeesh.

NL Central

As usual, it’s a scrum. But in a surprising twist, it does not involve the St. Louis Cardinals. Last year’s Pujols carriage quickly turned pumpkin. Instead, the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, & even Chicago Cubs jockey for the top spot on a weekly basis.

NL West

Remember when I proclaimed the San Diego Padres to have the most talented roster in this division? Yeah—they are under .500. After a quick start by the Arizona Diamondbacks led to an equally dramatic fade of late, it’s largely the “same old story”—the epic San Francisco Giants & Los Angeles Dodgers rivalry taking center stage.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
A pair of familiar (in every possible way) faces in the City by the Bay (RIP Tony Bennett)
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

No epic record chases or career milestones being pursued ala 2022, but 2023’s cold-weather baseball should provide the usual division drama and wild card wackiness that baseball has now annually set itself up so well for!