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Race to the top

Orioles to beat Yankees to American League East title, says Alex

Features Posted 20th September 2012 view comments

Last November Major League Baseball decided that having only eight teams in the sport's play-offs simply wasn't enough, so they added another wild card spot to both the National and American League.

This means that the two wild card teams won't be guaranteed a spot in the League Division Series - they'll play a one-game match at the start of October. Winner goes to the AL or NL Division Series. The loser goes home.

The Orioles are tipped to win the title race

The Orioles are tipped to win the title race

This has made for an exceptionally exciting end to the Major League Baseball season because even if a number of the divisional races are virtually decided - all hell seems to be breaking loose in the wild card races.

So here are my predictions for each league - and each wild card race - with about ten games to go.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

EAST

If Atlanta and St Louis stumble, there could be FOUR teams tied up at the top of the wild card spot going into the final series of the season. How great is that?

Alex Ferguson
Quotes of the week

Who's in the title race? The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles aren't giving up any ground to each other in the battle for ultimate 2012 superiority. The upstart Orioles - led by Adam Jones and JJ Hardy (as well as a solid pitching staff) haven't battled the hated Yankees this hard since the late 1990s and the heady days of Baltimore legend Roberto Alomar, and they simply won't give up. This year, their specialty has been winning games late on, and in extra innings - especially down this current stretch of form. The Yankees - who seem to have another player injured almost every single game - are a team wounded in heart, soul, and body, but Right Reverend of Hitting Derek Jeter is doing the job of keeping the Yanks' noses just in front of the pesky birds.

Who's going to win it? Force me to pick one? OK, I'm going with the upset. The Orioles win the pennant on the final day of the season.

CENTRAL

Who's in the title race? The Detroit Tigers have come from nowhere to be only two games behind the Chicago White Sox, and it's going to be one heck of a race to the end of the season. Led by Miguel Cabrera - who's a legitimate shot to win the baseball's coveted 'Triple Crown' (Home runs, RBIs, battling average), the Tigers are roaring now. But Chicago - buoyed by the mid-season addition of Kevin Youkilis and the hitting of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios - aren't giving up lightly. I'm only sad that these two won't play each other again this year.

Who's going to win it? Tigers win this one but in the final series.

WEST

Who's in the title race? Last year's World Series runner-up Texas have been on fire throughout the season, and currently hold a four game lead over the Oakland Athletics. The LA Angels, who spent a huge amount assembling their squad at the start of the year, lie in third and way out of contention. Oakland hasn't exactly covered themselves in glory lately, losing three straight to Detroit, but their solid pitching line-up - and great hitting from leaders like Josh Reddick - means that they can beat anyone on their day. Texas have won mainly via a hitting line-up - led by Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, and Ian Kinsler - that has been brutal on opposition pitching. That's quite a threat to go deep in the post-season, too.

Who's going to win it? Texas wins this one - and comfortably, bearing in mind that Oakland doesn't have an easy run-in and the As pitching staff is getting increasingly thin.

And as for the two wild card spots? With the Yankees leading the AL East by half a game, Baltimore is in the first wild card spot followed by Oakland. The LA Angels are three and a half games back - and could do damage when they meet Oakland in under a week's time - while Detroit is five games back. But as I'm predicting Baltimore to win the AL East, then it's the Yankees and Chicago (who will be second to Detroit in the Central) who will be your wild card winners. Sorry, Oakland!

NATIONAL LEAGUE

EAST

Who's in the title race? The Washington Nationals have a comfortable, five-game lead over the Atlanta Braves and I anticipate them celebrating their first title pretty quickly. But in baseball, anything can happen...

Who's going to win it? Washington. Despite deciding to end pitching phenomenon Stephen Strasburg's season early, the Nationals have too much pitching talent to give up this ghost now.

CENTRAL

Who's in the title race? As they lead World Series champions St Louis by 11 games going into Thursday's games and only need to win three games to win the title, the Cincinnati Reds could be the first team in the postseason by Sunday. In short, there isn't really a 'race' in the Central, but more a procession, starring Cincy's Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips at the reins.

WEST

Who's in the title race? The West is almost as much of a procession as the Central, with the San Francisco Giants running away with proceedings, leading the expensively-constructed LA Dodgers by nine games. With the Giants only needing three wins (and two Dodgers' losses) to confirm the title, this race could be over by the Sunday, too.

And as for the two wild card spots? The battle for the wild card spots in the National League is far more interesting than the division races themselves. Why? There are five teams involved here: Atlanta, St Louis, LA, as well as the Milwaukee Brewers and as an outside shot the 'Weren't they dead and buried in June?' Philadelphia Phillies.

Philly and Milwaukee are the form teams having won seven and eight of their last 10 games respectively, but Atlanta's been steady enough. Having said that, if Atlanta and St Louis stumble, there could be FOUR teams tied up at the top of the wild card spot going into the final series of the season. How great is that? My prediction is that Atlanta and Milwaukee get the spots. Sorry LA!

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