By Jim • 

Sports fan: MLB division races tighten up

The dog days of August are just around the corner, and the division races in Major League Baseball, across the board, are heating up as July waves good-bye to fans who live and die over the success — or failure — of their favorite teams.

By this time of the year, one or two teams are often showing only their tailpipes to their bunkmates, but as of July 28, the six division races were much too tight to project a winner or jump on the bandwagon of a dominant team that might ultimately cruise to a 10-game lead before the curtain falls on the 2014 MLB season.

In fact, the largest lead was in the American League Central Division where Detroit enjoyed a five-game margin over Kansas City. This might just be Detroit’s year, Tigers’ fans hope, to return to the World Series again.

In the American League West, despite a fine performance by Oakland, which had crafted a 65-39 record by July 28, the Athletics were only two games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels. The winner of that division will undoubtedly be either Oakland or LA... unless the Northwest’s favorite, the Seattle Mariners, get hot. As of July 28, the Mariners were 11 1/2 games back in third place. As for me, I’m picking the A’s in the AL West.

And in the National League West, the race between the Dodgers and Giants has been intense, with no team enjoying more than a game or two lead during much of July. On July 28, I was pleased to note that the Dodgers were 1-1/2 game up on the Giants, but the Dodgers aren’t hitting the ball consistently. So that race is probably going to continue to be between those two clubs, unless third-place San Diego, 12 games back, finds its A-game in the final weeks of the campaign. In this race, I’m hoping the Dodgers’ fine pitching staff can carry the load down the stretch.

It’s a close race in the AL East, too, with Baltimore leading Toronto by three, with the somewhat inconsistent Yankees only four games back. Tampa Bay, just under five hundred, was only 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees, so fans can’t count them out with over two months to go in the season. I really don’t have a dog in the fight in this division race, so I won’t commit to a pick now.In the AL Central Division, as noted earlier, Detroit enjoyed the biggest lead, with Kansas City five games in arrears and Cleveland just 6-1/2 games out on July 28. But Kansas City and Cleveland will have to gain momentum to catch the Tigers down the stretch. I’m sticking with Detroit, a city buffeted by a an economic short fall. Motor City needs something to cheer about.

More tight races are getting the attention of baseball fans in the NL East and NL Central Divisions, too, with Washington holding a slim 1 1/2 game lead over Atlanta while Milwaukee was ahead of the tough St. Louis Cardinals by only two games. The Cardinals have a couple of recent World Series banners (2006 and 2011) waving in Busch Stadium and shouldn’t be counted out this year.

So, there’s no runaway team at this stage of the season, which is good for baseball. Of course, things can — and will — change in the next few weeks as some favorites run into injury problems, especially with members of the all-important pitching staffs or during the scorching of August which can wear players down in cities where it’s never cool until late fall.

As far as a World Series prediction, it’s too soon to commit, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a match-up of my Dodgers with the Tigers, or perhaps a classic match-up of the Yankees and Dodgers. Looking back over the World Series’ history, I couldn’t find a series that pitted the Dodgers versus the Tigers, but another Dodgers-Yankees’ series... priceless.

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