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Three large storylines to observe heading in MLB's thrilling closing week

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We have now arrived on the final week of the 2021 common season, and there are such a lot of inquiries to be answered. It’s gonna be enjoyable watching how every thing performs out. 

Will the Cardinals really lose a recreation, or will their present 16-game successful streak attain 22 by the top of the schedule? Will the Braves handle enterprise of their collection with the Phillies that begins Tuesday, or will the NL East devolve into chaos that may make a make-up recreation AND a tie-breaker recreation 163 mandatory for Atlanta? 

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There are statistical titles up for grabs, too. Who will lead the majors in house runs? Proper now, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Sal Perez every have 46, and Shohei Ohtani (45), Marcus Semien (43) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (41) are inside shouting distance. Will Max Scherzer (2.28 ERA) or Corbin Burnes (2.29) win the NL ERA title? 

It’s going to be enjoyable, people. Listed here are what we predict are the three most compelling storylines to observe over the past week. 

NL West race

The Giants and Dodgers are batting for the NL West title, they usually each have a powerful motivation to go all-out over this final week to say that crown. See, the winner of the NL West strikes instantly into the NLDS, a best-of-five collection. The group that finishes second within the division drops to the win-or-go-home wild-card recreation, a one-game “collection” that’s nice for TV however not how baseball playoffs ought to be determined. 

The Giants (102 wins) and Dodgers (100 wins) aren’t simply the perfect two groups within the NL West. They’re the perfect two groups in all of baseball; the Rays (97) are the one different group within the bigs with greater than 94 wins on the season. However ready for the West’s runner-up would be the Cardinals, a group using a 16-game successful streak. Solely two groups since 1953 have received greater than the 16 consecutive video games the Cardinals have rattled off. 

“Congrats on being the second-best group in all of baseball this yr! Now it’s a must to face one of many hottest MLB groups prior to now 70 years! Good luck!” 

However railing in opposition to the present playoff setup is a subject for an additional column. Right here’s hoping this adjustments with the following CBA, when that’s lastly resolved sooner or later sooner or later — three-game collection, minimal. For proper now, the purpose is that each groups are very conscious of the significance of successful the division and avoiding the one-game “collection.”

Each groups are off Monday. The Giants have a two-game lead heading into this week; they play their closing six video games at house — three in opposition to the Diamondbacks, three in opposition to the Padres. The Dodgers play all six at house, too — three in opposition to the Padres and three in opposition to the Brewers. Milwaukee is locked into the No. 2 NL seed, so that they’ll be targeted on establishing their rotation and bullpen for his or her NLDS, in opposition to the NL East winner. 

Discover each groups play the Padres? It’s nonetheless a bit mind-boggling to assume the Friars are actually simply 78-78 after being 17 video games over .500 in mid-August they usually’ve been decreased to enjoying a possible spoiler right here within the final week of the season. 

MORE: Up to date MLB playoff bracket, magic numbers

AL East/AL wild-card race

The race for second (and third!) place within the AL East ought to be fascinating. The Rays are eight video games away from the sector; they’ve already clinched the division. For the time being, the Yankees are in second, one recreation forward of the Crimson Sox — a group they only swept in Fenway Park this weekend — and two video games forward of the Blue Jays.

It’s doubtless that the groups that end second and third within the division will declare the 2 AL wild-card spots, although the Mariners (two video games out of the second WC spot) and A’s (three video games out) are nonetheless alive, too. 

The Blue Jays are on the surface wanting in in the mean time, however they’ve a good schedule. The primary three video games aren’t favorable as a result of they’re simple, however as a result of they’re enjoying the Yankees, the group they’re instantly chasing, at house. What extra are you able to need? The Jays end the common season with three at house in opposition to the 106-loss Orioles. 

After their three-game set in Canada, the Yankees shut with three at house in opposition to a Rays group that can doubtless have locked up the AL’s No. 1 seed by that time, however Tampa Bay would love nothing greater than to win and maintain that doubtlessly harmful Yankees lineup out of the AL postseason image. The Crimson Sox had their likelihood to take management of the wild-card race, however they have been swept by New York. Nonetheless, their final six video games are in opposition to the Orioles and Nationals, two groups lengthy out of the postseason image.  

NL MVP race

Keep in mind when this was Fernando Tatis Jr.’s award to lose? Nicely, he may need misplaced it. That is a person award, in fact, however the best way the Padres have collapsed down the stretch can’t assist his possibilities. It’s not that Tatis himself has been unhealthy — he’s batting .293 with 4 homers and an .871 OPS in September — however that his two major opponents have caught hearth over the previous month and closed the hole to mainly nothing. 

Juan Soto is batting .439 with a .598 on-base share and 1.367 OPS in September, with seven homers, 21 RBIs and 22 runs scored in 27 video games.

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Bryce Harper’s batting .390 with a .515 on-base share and 1.353 OPS since Aug. 25, with 11 homers and 30 RBIs. It’s not nearly one month, in fact. However check out WAR numbers and also you’ll see why September does turn out to be an necessary a part of the equation. 

By Baseball-Reference WAR’s system, Soto is at 7.2, Tatis is 6.6 and Harper’s 5.8. By the FanGraphs calculation, Soto is at 6.7, Harper’s at 6.6 and Tatis is 6.2.

There isn’t a “fallacious” reply right here. It’ll be enjoyable to see which participant makes the strongest closing assertion.

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