(CBS Chicago/CBS Local) — The MLB playoffs are just around the corner. But the division races lack real drama, with most of the winners all but decided. That is, except the National League Central, where the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals seem destined to battle right up until the end.
The wild card races, however, remain suspenseful. Three American League teams are vying for two spots. Five National League teams remain within five games of the postseason. All this, of course, is for a chance in what amounts to a play-in game, with the winner going on to face the AL or NL’s best team.
The Los Angeles Angels, long out of contention, will now limp to September’s end without their best player. AL MVP candidate Mike Trout has been dealing with foot pain for a month, and will now undergo season-ending surgery.
The Baltimore Orioles can’t be done with this season soon enough either. But in a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak 2019, an Oriole hit the home run that set MLB’s season home run record. It’s a shared record, but they’ll take what they can get.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at the wild card races, Mike Trout’s injury and the MLB home run record.
Wild Card Races Close
With most of the playoff spots spoken for, the wild card races remain a toss up in the second half of September. The American League has a three teams vying for the two wild card spots. After Monday’s action, 2.5 games separate the Oakland Athletics (90-61), Tampa Bay Rays (89-62) and Cleveland Indians (87-63), with the A’s and Rays holding an edge.
The A’s continue to chase the Houston Astros in the AL West. They’ve won eight of their last 10 and trail by eight games. Finishing the season in the top wild card spot, where they’ve sat for weeks, seems almost inevitable at this point. But it’s far from certain.
Likewise, the Rays are theoretically still contending for the AL East. At nine games behind the New York Yankees and unable to make up any ground, the wild card seems like their only ticket to the postseason.
The Indians could upend the current AL order, trailing the Minnesota Twins by five games for the AL Central and the Rays by 1.5 games for the wild card. The Indians will have a tough time making up any ground, with upcoming series against NL wild card contenders.
The National League wild card race still includes five teams within five games of a spot. But the situation should start to get worked out this week. The Washington Nationals (82-67) and Chicago Cubs (82-68) hold the two spots at the moment.
The Nationals won’t catch the Braves in the NL East, especially after losing five of seven games to them in two recent series. The Nats, 4-6 in their last 10 games, have also hit a rough patch at exactly the wrong time.
While the Cubs trail the St. Louis Cardinals (84-66) by two games in the NL Central, seven games remain between the two teams. Taking those two series could put the Cubs in control of the division, but losing them could keep them out of the playoffs. The same goes for the Cardinals.
The Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies all sit within five games of the final wild card spot. Milwaukee just lost 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich for the season to a fractured kneecap. The Brewers are still only one game back, and don’t play another above-.500 team for the rest of the regular season.
The Mets, at five games back, seem determined to toy with their fans for as long as possible before missing the cut. They also have a light schedule the rest of the way, aside from an end-of-season series with the Braves. And even in that series they may face a Braves team that’s resting starters.
The Phillies, also five games out of the wild card, still also have a shot at slipping in. But unless they get hot, and quickly, it’s unlikely. With series against the Braves, Indians and Nationals, all teams with legitimate playoff hopes, the Phillies path to the postseason is a difficult one.
Mike Trout Done For Season
Mike Trout’s quest for another AL MVP is over. MLB’s best player developed Morton’s neuroma in his right foot about a month ago. The condition, a thickening of the tissue around a nerve that causes pain, has kept him out of the Angels lineup since August 6. Over the weekend, the team announced that he would have season-ending surgery to fix the problem.
Trout’s stats on the season — .291 batting average, 45 HRs, 104 RBI, 8.3 WAR — will keep him in the MVP running this year and may ultimately be enough. He won the award in 2014 and 2016 and was runner-up four other times.
But Trout won’t take the MLB home run title. He’s currently third behind Reds Eugenio Suarez and Mets Pete Alonso, who both have 47 on the season.
The Angels (68-82) have bee out of playoff contention for some time.
MLB Season Home Run Record
In a season they’d rather forget, the Orioles have set multiple records that they’d rather not own. That includes the most home runs allowed in a season, which they tied and broke with more than a month left in the season. The total now stands and 284, 34 above the second-place Seattle Mariners, and will likely rise further by season’s end.
But last week the team helped set the MLB record for most home runs in a season. In a 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jonathan Villar hit a record-setting three-run shot, number 6,106 in the League this season. That number after Monday’s action stands at 6,308, and will go higher in this season of the long ball.