It’s Sept. 1, folks. We have one month (and a few bonus October days) left in the 2021 season. Will the teams that caught fire in August keep it up? Will the teams that struggled through the month find a way to recenter and turn around their season?
Will Mets fans look at this season as a thumbs up or thumbs down?
Let’s look at how things stand heading into September.
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30. Orioles (Aug. 2 ranking: 23). The Orioles beat the Yankees, 7-1, on Aug. 2. Since then, they’re 2-23. Yep, that’s last-place stuff. Fun fact, though: The two wins came on back-to-back days, by a combined score of 23-7 against the Angels.
29. Diamondbacks (30). Ketel Marte returned after missing all of July and he’s batting .345 on the season.
28. Rangers (29). Second-worst record in the AL, but a combined 8-6 against Boston and Toronto.
27. Pirates (28). Pirates fans secretly hoping those two dramatic comeback wins against the Cardinals will keep St. Louis out of the playoffs
26. Cubs (27). AB/HR ratio: Patrick Wisdom, 10.2, Fernando Tatis, 10.3; Shohei Ohtani, 10.6
25. Marlins (22). Bright spot: Jesus Luzardo looked pretty darn good in his most recent start.
24. Nationals (26). Seriously, give Juan Soto all the money. Right now.
23. Royals (21). With 38 home runs, Sal Perez is putting together an epic offensive season for a catcher.
22. Twins (24). It’s nice to see Byron Buxton back, even if he did strike out eight times in his first four games back.
21. Rockies (25). Bet you didn’t know this: The Rockies are four games over .500 since May 29.
20. Mets (14). Yikes.
19. Tigers (17). They’re legit 2022 playoff contenders. You heard it here first.
18. Indians (20). Closer Emmanuel Clase sure is fun to watch, isn’t he?
17. Angels (19). For real, will we ever see another full season of Healthy Mike Trout?
16. Mariners (13). The playoff dream isn’t dead, but it’s not looking good.
15. Blue Jays (10). Same thing as the Mariners.
Aug. 2 ranking: 9
Record, place: 71-62, third place NL West (x). Tied for second wild card
Why they’re here: After a particularly putrid 2-12 stretch, the Padres have won three of four. And even though they’re playing poorly, the talent is still there to make a nice run in September, and that might be all it takes to grab that second wild card.
Aug. 2 ranking: 18
Record, place: 68-64, second place NL East (2.5 back). 2.5 out of second wild card
Why they’re here: Every time the Phillies seem to be down for the count, they fight their way back into playoff contention. Of course, every time they get back into contention, they fall on their faces, like the time they moved into first place in the NL East and built a two-game lead, then lost 11 of their next 15 games.
Aug. 2 ranking: 15
Record, place: 67-63, third place NL Central (12.5 back). 2.5 out of second wild card
Why they’re here: The truth? The Cardinals are OK, at best. And with Jack Flaherty out again, it’s hard to see them making the type of extended push it would require to get to the postseason. But, they do have five more games remaining with the Reds (including a double-header today) and three with the Padres, so they have a shot at making up big ground in those games.
Aug. 2 ranking: 12
Record, place: 71-62, second place in NL Central (10 back). Tied for second wild card
Why they’re here: Let’s say this: The schedule is favorable.
The Reds are going to make the playoffs and the Padres are not.
W-L through August:
The Padres own the most difficult remaining schedule (10 vs SF, 6 vs LAD).
The Reds own the 2nd-easiest remaining schedule (9 vs PIT).
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) September 1, 2021
Aug. 2 ranking: 16
Record, place: 70-61, first place NL East
Why they’re here: The Braves needed more offensive production from their outfielders, and Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler have combined for 15 homers and 36 RBIs since they were added to the club. That’s solid.
9. Red Sox
Aug. 2 ranking: 7
Record, place: 75-59, third place in AL East (10 back). Second wild card
Why they’re here: COVID has landed in Boston. How the team survives this stretch will determine whether the Sox play in October or wind up on the outside looking in.
Aug. 2 ranking: 8
Record, place: 73-59, second place in AL West (5 back). 1 back of second wild card
Why they’re here: This is a Starling Marte appreciation capsule. He’s been exactly what the A’s hoped he would be when they traded for him before the July 30 trade deadline. In 29 games with the A’s, Marte has a .344 average, a 1.4 bWAR and 133 OPS+. And, oh yeah, he already has 20 stolen bases in those 29 games, making him the first player ever to have at least 20 stolen bases in both the AL and NL in one season (he had 22 with the Marlins).
Aug. 2 ranking: 4
Record, place: 78-54, first place in AL West
Why they’re here: They finally have Alex Bregman back in the lineup after he spent more than two months on the IL. That’s a big boost. The AL is full of great comeback stories this year — Trey Mancini, Carlos Rodon and Mitch Haniger, to name a few — so Yordan Alvarez kinda gets lost in that shuffle. But he’s been pretty incredible this season after playing only two games in 2020. The lefty slugger has 28 homers, 89 RBIs and a 139 OPS+ to go with a 2.6 bWAR.
6. White Sox
Aug. 2 ranking: 2
Record, place: 77-56, first place in AL Central
Why they’re here: The ChiSox dropped several spots this time. Not because they’ve been bad — they’re still good, going 16-12 in August — but it’s more about what the teams that moved ahead of them did last month. Every team in the top five won games at a .667 clip or better. That’s good stuff. The White Sox have welcomed back Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez from the IL, and both have been outstanding. Robert has a .382 average and 1.101 OPS in 16 games this month and Jimenez has 27 RBIs in 26 games. If the pitching is healthy down the stretch and in October, they’ll be a tough out.
Aug. 2 ranking: 11
Record, place: 76-56, second place in AL East (8 back). First AL wild card
Why they’re here: A few days we looked at how the Yankees took off after the trade deadline. Spoiler: The success wasn’t about the newbies, but was fueled by franchise mainstays such as Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge.
Aug. 2 ranking: 5
Record, place: 84-48, first place in AL East
Why they’re here: The Rays went 21-6 in August despite having their “worst” team ERA for any month this season (4.23). How’d they do it? How do the Rays ever do it? Nobody knows, but they keep winning. Last year’s postseason star, Randy Arozarena, is apparently warming up for his favorite time of the year. Arozarena hit .362 in August. Brandon Lowe hit nine homers to go with 26 RBIs in August.
Aug. 2 ranking: 6
Record, place: 81-52, first place in NL Central
Why they’re here: It’s not a stretch to say that they have the best pitching staff in baseball. You won’t see a lot of people picking the Brewers to win the World Series, but if they’re healthy they absolutely could win.
Aug. 2 ranking: 1
Record, place: 84-49, second place in NL West (0.5 back). First NL wild card
Why they’re here: The Dodgers have seven players with at least 300 plate appearances this year (counting Trea Turner’s time with the Nationals, too), and all seven have an OPS of .832 or better. That, folks, is a deep lineup. Oh, and they had a team ERA of 2.26 in August, led by starters Walker Buehler (1.35 ERA in August), Julio Urias (1.38 ERA) and Max Scherzer (1.55 ERA). Only one pitcher with more than four innings in the month had an ERA north of 3.07.
Aug. 2 ranking: 3
Record, place: 84-48, first place in NL West
Why they’re here: We’re going to dive deeper into the Giants later this week. How about one stat, though? The Giants have had a winning percentage of .600 or better every single month this year. Really impressive.