The final month of the MLB season is upon us, and with it comes a lot of excitement. Which teams are on the cusp of clinching their division? Who’s got the best shot at winning the World Series? What about those players who have been playing well recently?
The how many total games in mlb season 2021 is a question that has been asked for the past few years. The answer to this question, is 2,130. That’s a lot of baseball!
The MLB regular season in 2021 is only two weeks away, and we can’t wait.
Between baseball’s two greatest clubs, the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, a fascinating National League West battle is brewing. Both leagues’ wild-card races are crowded, with the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Toronto Blue Jays leading the way in the American League East. Then there are the players vying for the last spots in each of the postseason categories, from MVP to Cy Young to Rookie of the Year.
So, what are we most looking forward to in the next 14 days? Which teams are playing for the most money? Which season finale plotlines aren’t receiving the attention they deserve? In a nutshell, how will everything turn out as September goes into October?
As we prepare for some of the biggest baseball games of the year thus far, we asked ESPN MLB analysts Bradford Doolittle, Alden Gonzalez, Jesse Rogers, and David Schoenfield to answer those questions and more. The playoffs are up next!
In the last two weeks of the regular season, what are you most looking forward to?
Doolittle: There are certainly exciting contests for postseason spots and seeding, but I’m more excited about the AL hitting leaderboards in the stretch run. Can Salvador Perez, a Kansas City Royal, become the first main catcher to hit 50 home runs? Is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. capable of catching Perez and Jose Abreu in the RBI race and winning the Triple Crown? Can Shohei Ohtani become the first genuine two-way player since Babe Ruth to lead a league in home runs? As each night’s games unfold, these are the items I find myself checking in on.
Gonzalez: The American League’s wild-card chase. When Friday started, it was essentially a three-way tie between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays, with a few of crucial head-to-head matchups remaining. The Red Sox take on the Yankees this weekend, and the Blue Jays take on the Yankees the next week, but every game these clubs play in the future will be high-stakes. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Aaron Judge, Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, Gerrit Cole, Robbie Ray, and a slew of other players that make up these incredibly talented lineups will be playing in high-pressure situations down the stretch, and nothing beats it. The AL East is a force to be reckoned with, and it’s only natural that three of its clubs will make the playoffs. Which one will not, is the question.
Rogers: The National League wild-card race. It will be quite a feat if the St. Louis Cardinals defeat both the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds. Jayce Tingler’s employment should be jeopardized as a result. The Cardinals suffered as many injuries to their starting pitching staff as the Padres, but they were able to hold the line as they recovered. With a less skilled squad owing to injuries, the only way to do this is to defeat the poor teams. The Padres had a 40-39 record against.500 or below opponents before the weekend. The Cardinals had a 50-31 record. Those figures have nothing to do with the divisional differences between the two clubs.
Schoenfield: The Phillies’ four-game winning streak came to a stop on Sunday, as did the Braves’ four-game losing skid, but Atlanta’s five-game advantage has fallen to just two games. That’s fantastic, but I’d rather watch the NL West competition, where the Giants and Dodgers continue to play at a very high level. This is a typical scoreboard-watching race now that they’ve finished playing each other. Although the loser still receives the wild card, both clubs want to avoid the play-in game. Everyone has an opinion on whether the wild card is good or bad, but it’s a good reminder of why finishing first is so essential, and why a strong division race is still the finest baseball has to offer.
What is the most at risk for each team?
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The Yankees, according to Doolittle. It’s a mix of variables, including the team’s championship drought, salary, trade deadline aggression, preseason expectations, and the spotlight of New York. Even though it would be a wild-card spot, advancing to the playoffs would save the team a lot of embarrassment. Given that losing out on a wild-card spot would almost certainly result in a fourth-place finish in this year’s AL East, the demands for wholesale changes would be loud.
Gonzalez: The New York Yankees, who have the sport’s second-largest salary and typically the greatest expectations. They went all-in in July, giving up prospects to sign Anthony Rizzo in the last months before he became a free agent. Missing the playoffs would be more than a disappointment; it would raise significant concerns about the composition of this team and how it has to change in order to compete again. And there are no simple solutions.
The Padres, according to Rogers. Instead of taking it one game at a time, Jayce Tingler and his teammates have been too fixated on stringing together a long winning run. Perhaps they grew depressed after the divide was beyond their grasp. If they’re at home watching the Dodgers play the Reds or Cardinals in the wild-card game, they should be down. When the Cardinals acquired pitchers Jon Lester and J.A. Happ earlier in the season, they were ready to pack it in, but time was on their side, and they took advantage. If the Padres don’t make it, heads should roll in San Diego. The same cannot be said of Cincinnati or St. Louis. In this debate, the Yankees must be ranked first.
Schoenfield: I’m going to vote for the Yankees again. There are youngsters who have just completed Little League and have never seen the Yankees play in a World Series. Given the high preseason expectations and a recent string of crushing playoff disappointments — the Game 5 American League Division Series loss to the Rays in 2020 with Gerrit Cole on the mound, the Jose Altuve home run in the 2019 American League Championship Series, the 4-0 shutout loss in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS — a World Series-less season, let alone one without a playoff appearance, could lead to a rethinking of the team’s playoff strategy.
Which story isn’t receiving the attention it deserves?
Doolittle: I wouldn’t say it hasn’t received any notice, but whatever attention it has gotten, it isn’t enough: Max Scherzer has done incredible things for the Dodgers. Max Scherzer has a 0.78 ERA in nine starts with the Dodgers, including a seven-inning shutout against Cincinnati on Sept. 18. That is his greatest nine-start streak in the majors, beating even a run he had with the Nationals in 2019 that concluded on July 6 of that year. Before the deal, Scherzer was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, which I don’t believe many would argue. Despite this, he entered a high-stakes division battle and began the most dominating pitching run of his career. It’s almost scary to see him work since he’s been so excellent. He’s simply that powerful.
Gonzalez: Bryce Harper and Fernando Tatis Jr. seem to be battling for the National League MVP award, but Juan Soto has been outstanding for a struggling Nationals club. Since the All-Star break, he has a.525 on-base percentage and a.990 OPS, behind just Harper and Guerrero on the season. After batting.351/.490/.695 in the abbreviated 2020 season, he’s doing it in his age-22 season. Those Ted Williams impersonations don’t seem so far-fetched anymore.
Houston’s domination, according to Rogers. The Astros have the highest run differential in the American League, despite how good the Rays are and how hot the Blue Jays have been. The Astros have been in first place for what seems like an eternity, and every time Oakland or even Seattle has made a push, the Astros have followed suit. The following is the most terrifying statistic for playoff opponents: Houston has a 43-31 record versus teams with a winning percentage above.500 heading into the weekend. The Rays, Giants, and Dodgers all have lower victory percentages.
Schoenfield: The Brewers have been so far ahead of the NL Central for so long that, apart from Corbin Burnes, they may not have gotten nearly enough attention. No, their run differential isn’t as good as the Giants/Dodgers/Astros/Rays/Blue Jays’, but this is a team built for October, with Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta, as well as Josh Hader, possibly the best closer in the game, and the ability to mix and match Eric Lauer, Adrian Houser, and a deep bullpen. They’ll need to get Willy Adames healthy for the playoffs, but with their pitching and defense, they can win the first World Series in club history.
Will there be any races determined on the last day? Are there going to be any ties?
The MLB season of 2021 will be broadcast on ESPN and the ESPN App.
All timings are in Eastern Standard Time.
Cardinals-Cubs at 2 p.m. on ESPN; Yankees-Red Sox at 7 p.m. on ESPN; Braves-Padres at 10 p.m. on ESPN
Sunday, September 26th, 7 p.m. on ESPN, Yankees vs. Red Sox
Padres at. Dodgers, Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 10 p.m. on ESPN
Doolittle: Both seem to be significant contenders, if only because of the large number of clubs vying for wild-card berths in both leagues, not to mention the tight division battle between the Giants and Dodgers, as well as the NL East’s increasingly heated competition between the Phillies and Braves. In the American League, a five-team cluster is vying for two wild-card berths; all five are separated by four games in the loss column. In the National League, four clubs are within four games of each other for a single playoff berth. The Cardinals shown how fast a team can separate itself this weekend, but even in the past two weeks, the picture in any of these races might change in a matter of days.
Gonzalez: I believe the Giants and Dodgers are doomed to play until the end of the season, if not longer. Since the beginning of August, the Dodgers have won more than 20 games but have been unable to gain any distance on the Giants. It’s only appropriate that the long-running rivalry between these two teams be settled in Game 163.
Rogers: It’s possible that the AL wild card will be determined the day after the last day of the season. So, at the very least, it will come down to that last Sunday.
Yes, I believe there is a 50/50 possibility we will have a tiebreaker on Monday, with four races in play: three clubs (and perhaps the A’s) for two AL wild cards, the second wild card, plus the NL East and NL West. If you really want to create havoc, have the Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, and Padres all finish with identical records, resulting in a five-way tie for the NL East and the second wild card (plus perhaps an NL West tiebreaker!). Please, baseball gods, help us out.
Which club will win the National League West?
Doolittle: While I continue to believe that the Dodgers are superior than the Giants and everyone else, the plain reality is that San Francisco now has the advantage and has showed no signs of reverting to preseason expectations. There are no more head-to-head matches between them, so the math somewhat favors the Giants at this point. Who am I to argue with the laws of physics? But, with the lead down to one game, if I believe the Dodgers are the superior club, I feel compelled to choose them.
Gonzalez: Even though the Giants led for so long and won the season series, I still choose the Dodgers (just barely). For the next two weeks, the Dodgers will rely on a rotation of Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Julio Urias, a lineup of Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Will Smith, and a bullpen of Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly, and Corey Knebel. They are difficult to equal in terms of sheer ability. And I’ll do it with aplomb.
Rogers: The Dodgers will be the team to beat. San Francisco hung out for as long as it could, but L.A. is now a machine. Championship hangovers are common in the second half of games, and the Dodgers are no exception.
Schoenfield: We keep expecting the Giants to at least budge, but their greatest month was August (19-9) and their second-best month was September (19-9). (13-5 so far). With the Padres self-destructing — and in public, as we witnessed Saturday night with Manny Machado screaming at Tatis — those six remaining games against them suddenly don’t seem so difficult. The Giants defeat the Dodgers by a score of 106 to 105.
Who would you choose as a wild card, and why?
The Dodgers… and three other clubs, according to Doolittle. Do you want to learn more? Ugh. Fine. Even with its unorthodox rotation, I still believe the Padres are the most talented of the five teams vying for the second wild-card spot in the National League. The Cardinals, on the other hand, are the only one of those clubs that is having a winning season in September, and they just gutted the Padres all weekend. I’m currently accepting them. It’s like eating soup with a fork in Alabama. Someone gets hot and someone else goes into the tank just when you think the race is beginning to clear up. The Yankees are reeling after being thrashed by Cleveland in two home games over the weekend, but they still have series against Toronto and Boston to make up ground. The Yankees and Blue Jays are my picks.
Gonzalez: In the American League, I’m picking the Yankees and Blue Jays, and in the National League, I’m picking the Reds to win the second wild-card position. The Padres’ remaining schedule is much too demanding, and their rotation is in bad shape at the worst possible moment. If Luis Castillo continues to pitch like he did on Friday, the Reds will be a scary club.
Rogers: In the National League, St. Louis will win. Its last 13 games will be against a clinching Brewers club and a struggling Cubs team. Counting on victories against teams with less to play for is always risky, as the Reds just demonstrated by winning only one of three games against the Pirates, but the Cardinals are the Cardinals. When the stakes are high, they generally win. The Yankees will sneak in with the Blue Jays in some way, shape, or form. The Red Sox, on the other hand, will not.
Schoenfield: After a six-game road trip to Boston and Toronto, the Yankees will play three games at home against the Rays. They don’t have any more games against the Orioles. The Red Sox have six games remaining against the Orioles and the Nationals. The Blue Jays play the Twins in a four-game series before hosting the Orioles for three games at home. Boston and Toronto are my picks. In the National League, I’m taking the Padres out. If the Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, and Reds are all tied for first place, the concept is simple: the Braves play the Phillies for the NL East championship, while the Cardinals and Reds play to remain in contention. For the wild card, the loser of the Braves/Phillies game will face the winner of the Cardinals/Reds game. If the Padres are included in the mix, there is no existing formula. My head is throbbing.
The how many games in mlb season 2022 is a question that asks how many games are left until the end of the MLB season. There are 14 days left and we’re most excited about what’s going to happen in those final two weeks.
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