We’ve reached the final quarter of the baseball season, and I can’t remember a time since Major League Baseball went from four to six divisions in 1994 that every division was still in doubt this late in the season. So, what the heck, I’m going to try to map out who is going to emerge from each division and wild card. (Standings as of Friday):

NL East (New York leads Philadelphia by 3 games, Atlanta by 3.5) — The Mets just keep doing enough to hang on They could use a boost from Pedro Martinez, although he hasn’t looked like he’s going to be much help in his rehab starts. I just can’t pick the Phillies. They’ve been the single most frustrating team in baseball for the last three years. The Braves have owned the Mets in the past and have taken 8 of 12 from them so far this year. They also have the easier schedule. I think they pull this one out. Pick: Atlanta.

NL Central (Milwaukee leads Chicago by 0.5 game, St. Louis by 2.5) — Well, this race got a whole lot more interesting in the last month. The Cubs have cooled off considerably, but got some good news on the possible return of Alphonso Soriano. Now the Cardinals are making a charge, perhaps inspired by Rick Ankiel. Given the pedigree of these three teams, it’s hard not to go with the Cards, especially since their pitching seems to be coming around. Pick: St. Louis.

NL West (Arizona leads San Diego by 3 games, Colorado by 6 and Los Angeles by 6.5) — Arizona has superseded Milwaukee as the Cinderella of 2007, but the Diamondbacks’ schedule over the next six weeks is a bear — Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago, San Diego (twice), Colorado and St. Louis before it gets easier. Fortunately, most of those games are at home, where they are 37-23. Colorado made its run, and the Dodgers got Gradyed. San Diego’s offense is heating up, and with the best ERA in baseball, that’s a tough combo to beat. Pick: San Diego.

NL Wild Card (San Diego is in front with Philadelphia, Atlanta, Colorado, Los Angeles, Chicago and St. Louis all within 6 games) — All these teams will be playing each other at least one series over the next six weeks, so this could be the most intense race of all. Aside from their division rivals, the Mets only have six games (at home) against San Diego and Los Angeles. Since I have the Padres winning the West, I think the Mets will be able to hold off everybody else.. Pick: New York.

AL West (Lost Angeles leads Seattle by 3.5 games) — The Angels are 40-17 at home, 30-32 on the road going into yesterday’s doubleheader with Boston. That means they have 24 games left at the ballpark formerly known as the “Big A”, and just 17 left on the road. They have seven games left against the Mariners, and they’re 8-4 so far against them. Pick: Seattle.

AL Central (Detroit leads Cleveland by 0.5 game, Minnesota by 6.5) — The Twins, my original pick, have all but conceded. That leaves the Tigers to duke it out with the Tribe with six head-to-head games remaining (three in each city). The Indians have the easier schedule in terms of remaining opponents, but because they have a make-up game with Seattle, they will also have a 23-day stretch without a day off coming up, plus a doubleheader at Seattle late next month. That, and Jim Leyland, give the Tigers the edge. Pick: Detroit.

AL East (Boston leads New York by 5.5 games) — I counted out the Yankees earlier, which was a mistake. But I’m still comfortable enough with the lead with just six head-to-head games left. Besides their current series with Detroit and a three-game trip to Kansas City, they’re done with the AL Central, which is the only division they have a better than .500 record against (23-8). The offense is starting to cool off, and Mariano Rivera looks burned out at this point. I think they’ll keep it interesting down the stretch, and they’ve still got a great shot at making the playoffs, but Boston’s schedule is too easy for the Yankees to re-enact 1978. Pick: Boston.

AL Wild Card (Seattle leads New York by 0.5 game, Cleveland by 1 and Toronto by 6) — Forget Toronto. Too many games left with the Sox and Yanks. Cleveland has four games left in Seattle, while New York is out of that loop. This is the toughest call of all the races. My head is telling me not to count the Yankees out again, but they’re 22-25 within the division and 17-17 combined against Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay and have 18 games remaining against those teams, so their schedule isn’t as easy as one might think. Besides, I’ve got a feeling the Red Sox are going to have to go through Safeco Field if they want to win it all this year, and that is a bit frightening. Pick: Seattle.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.