As baseball heads into the dog days of August, teams have begun lobbying for playoff position. Though every game between playoff contenders has significance, four series in particular that stand above the rest in terms of the MLB playoffs. (All win-loss records and standings are current as of August 18, 2019).
Yankees at Red Sox
- Sept. 7-9
The games always seem to mean a little more when the Yankees and Red Sox play. That’s probably because their games typically impact the MLB playoffs. Right now the Red Sox are 16 games back, but there are a few reasons why this could be a big series:
- The Yankees starting pitching has been atrocious over the past few months, so if the hitters slump they could relinquish a few games back off the lead.
- The Red Sox will be fighting to get into position for a wild card game berth.
- If the gap remains the same, the Red Sox may try to play spoiler for the first-place Yankees who are trying to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs while putting away Tampa Bay.
Athletics at Astros
- Sept. 9-12
The Astros had been dominating the A’s this season. During a series from August 15-18, Oakland took three games out of a four-game series from Houston. Houston’s reeling and the A’s find themselves 7.5 games back.
The likely scenario is that Houston still cruises to the AL West title. But the A’s are currently 1.5 games out of a wild card spot. If they can continue playing well, this series in September can help them in two ways. The A’s can both close the AL West gap and position themselves for the wild card game.
For the Astros, it could be a valuable tune-up. They’ll be facing a top team like the Twins, Yankees, or possibly even the Athletics in the MLB playoffs in October. The more big-time series they have to prepare, the better shape they’ll be in.
Red Sox and Yankees at Rays
- Sept. 20-25
Okay, we cheated — these are actually two series. But they’re both of the utmost importance for Tampa Bay, currently in second place in the AL East.
One of three scenarios will have occurred by this time: either Tampa will A) be on the Yankees tail for the division lead, 2) battling for a wild card spot, likely with Boston as one of the other teams, or C) have fallen out of the running altogether. With A and B being the two most likely scenarios, these games are especially critical for Tampa. It gives them a chance to make up ground on two division rivals before a playoff push.
Cubs at Cardinals
- Sept. 27-29
One of baseball’s oldest rivalries helps close out the 2019 regular season. Rivalries like this one are what make the sport so great, and the fact that this series may be to decide the NL Central champion makes it all that much sweeter.
The Cubs have struggled this year and are at risk of missing the MLB playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Whether they’re playing for the division or a wild card spot, they’ll need a solid performance in this series.