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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

Kolakowski: Playoff race shows MLB has best postseason in sports

This is going to come down to game 162.

Shoot, in the National League West and the National League Central, it might even come down to game 163.

On September 1, 2018, The Chicago Cubs held a 4.5-game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals and a 5-game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers.

On the same day, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers sat atop the NL West, with the Colorado Rockies lurking only a 0.5-game back.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Rockies have gone 16-8 in September to take sole possession of first place in the NL West. Meanwhile, the Brewers have gone 16-7 and now only trail the Cubs by a half-game.

After completing 98 percent of the 162-game schedule, two of the National League’s three divisions remain very much up for grabs, and five different teams could compete in the wild card game. Five different teams! So much could change between now and the time the regular season wraps up on Sunday.

We could have two ties for division titles, requiring two tie-breaking games to cap the season. All that before the one-game Wild Card playoff knocks another club out of the postseason.

The Cubs are in the driver’s seat for the NL Central and even for home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs, but the red-hot Brewers and MVP candidate Christian Yelich could overtake them in the division this weekend.

The Rockies hold a slim one-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West, and the Dodgers hold their own one-game lead over the Cardinals for the second wild card spot.

This tension, this drama, this down-to-the-wire finish is just a taste of what’s to come this October. The best postseason action in American sports is nearly upon us. October baseball is almost here.

It’s a long, grueling season, but the reward at the end is a beautiful sight for fans. In October, every pitch matters. Every at-bat carries weight. One errant throw could cost a run, a game, or even a series.

One batter can put his teammates on his back and slug his way to the World Series. Look at the 2015 Mets and Daniel Murphy, the second baseman who slugged home runs in six straight games between the National League Division Series against the Dodgers and the National League Championship Series against the Cubs to lead his team to the Fall Classic.

One pitcher can carry the load and deliver a title to his city. In 2014, San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Madison Bumgarner did just that. The tall, bearded lefty tossed seven innings in Game 1 of the Fall Classic, nine shutout innings in game five, and five scoreless innings in Game 7 to seal the championship season.

Managerial mistakes can cost teams the Commissioner’s Trophy. Last season, Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts over-used his bullpen throughout the postseason, and he was unable to piece together enough quality innings to win the deciding game 7 of the World Series.

The same rules apply now as regular season games dwindle. A slugger like Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado could will his team to a NL West title. Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon, who is famous for his unusual lineups and bold bullpen usage, could make one costly error to hand the Brewers the division.

Just as it is in October, every performance counts. At the end of game 162 we could have two tied divisions and two tiebreaking games.

Personally, I’m hoping for that free baseball that will keep me on the edge of my seat.