Over Baseball’s final Four Weeks, the Matchups that could Decide Who is Dancing and Who goes Home

With exactly four weeks remaining, or 28 days in the 2016 MLB regular season, many teams still have hope for a bid to baseball’s post season tournament. For many, that hope will come down to an opening NCAA tournament style one game scenario, survive and advance. The team that gets through that wild card game then will feel a huge weight lifted off its collective shoulders and anything can happen. The 1978 Yankees won the 1-game playoff and won the World Series. The 1980 Astros and 1995 Mariners would win one-game playoffs and have memorable postseasons, Houston a bitter loss in a decisive NLCS game five, Seattle losing the ALCS in six is more remembered for the amazing come back in the ALDS capped off by the “double”. While the 1998 Cubs, 2008 white Sox and 2009 Twins won one-game playoffs and then went quietly afterward, the 2012 Orioles and 2013 Pirates went the distance in the division series, the 2012 Cardinals and 2014 Cubs went to the NLCS, the 2014 Royals and 2007 Rockies would sweep to World Series appearances and the 2014 Giants would win it all. So the moral of the story, whoever comes out of the crazy scramble for the wild cards and is living to play on starting October 6, will be a pair of teams that should never be taken lightly.

With that said, let’s take a look at the remaining series on the MLB schedule that have the potential to be filled with drama that helps to unwind the coming story lines that establish who the winners and losers are or put another way, who is dancing into the tournament and who is left waiting outside the ballroom door. Based on standings going into Monday morning, I am not mentioning matchups between teams who are out of contention or matchups between teams who are out of it and teams who have huge divisional leads, which covers the Rangers, Cubs and Nationals.

Monday September 5-Wednesday September 7.
The Mets try to continue gaining on the Cardinals for the second NL wild card with three games at the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates will try to right their sinking ship and keep captain Hook from walking off the plank as they host the Cardinals for three critical games. Pittsburgh wants help from Cincinnati as well. The Marlins are very much still in the mix and they are rooting for the Pirates and Reds while hoping for success at home against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Rockies who are on the outside of this race can still make a move, as they have two series with the Giants and a later home set against the Cardinals. The Rockies will host San Francisco for three games during this stretch. The dodgers will also be rooting for Colorado, while they try to expand their division lead with three home games against the Diamondbacks. Over in the wild AL race, the Astros currently trail the Tigers and Orioles by 2. Houston plays four at Cleveland as that series will extend to Thursday September 8 in Cleveland. The Orioles play three at Tampa bay and while the Rays are out of it, they have been one of the best pitching teams since the break. Meanwhile, Toronto in a tight race with Boston at the top of the AL East visits the Yankees for three while Boston stays out west and plays an interleague set of three against the Padres. The Yankees and royals, Astros and Mariners are all hoping for a big helping hand from both the Rays and the white Sox, Chicago host the Detroit Tigers for three games. Meanwhile, Kansas city is at Minnesota for three and the Mariners are home for four against Texas, as that series extends through Thursday.

Friday September 9-Sunday September 11.
Pittsburgh will be home against the Reds, this is a four game set that opens on Thursday the 8th. The same is true for the Cardinals who are hosting the Brewers. The Marlins play a weekend home set of three against the Dodgers, while the Mets are at the Braves for three. The Giants are at the Diamondbacks for three, the Rockies at the Padres for four starting on Thursday. Over in the American League, the Yankees open on Thursday with four at home against Tampa Bay, while Toronto plays its first of two series with Boston, a four game set starting Thursday in Toronto. The Orioles and Tigers will play a massive three game series in Detroit and if they beat up on each other, it opens the door for Houston which has a huge home interleague series of three with the Cubs. Chicago may have all but won its NL Central crown by then, so they may rest a few guys before tuning up near the end of the regular season. The AL Central leading Indians are at Minnesota for three, the Royals are at the White Sox for three and the Mariners do the same visiting Oakland.

Monday September 12-Wednesday September 14
Everyone opens new series on the 12th, nearly all are matchups that could impact postseason play. Toronto is home to Tampa Bay three games, the Yankees host the Dodgers for three in interleague play, while the same is true for Baltimore at Boston, Texas at Houston, the Mets at Washington, San Diego at San Francisco, Miami at Atlanta and the Cubs at St. Louis. . Several series go four games into Thursday the 15th, Cleveland at Chicago White Sox, Minnesota at Detroit, Oakland at Kansas City and Pittsburgh at Philadelphia.

Friday September 16-Sunday September 18
A couple of series start the Thursday prior and are big four game tilts, Tampa Bay at Baltimore, the Yankees at Boston, the dodgers at Arizona, Toronto at the angels, and a huge showdown between the Cardinals and Giants in San Francisco. NL wild card hopefuls probably will root for whoever is leading to lose enough games to create a tie in the standings, or if the Cards and Giants are tied or separated by just a single game, the horses on the outside will be praying for a split. The Friday-Sunday matchups will include Miami at Philadelphia, Detroit at Cleveland, Minnesota at the Mets, Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, San Diego at Colorado, and Houston at Seattle. the white Sox at Kansas City will play a four game series that concludes Monday afternoon September 19.

Monday September 19-Thursday September 22
If the Rockies are still contending, this is their last best chance to make noise and propel themselves into the discussion for the remaining days of the season. They host the Cardinals for three huge games Monday through Wednesday. Other critical Monday-Wednesday matchups are Atlanta at the Mets (Note New York is home for consecutive matchups against baseball’s worst two teams), while Washington is at Miami and Houston is at Oakland. Other huge series to stay up late for, Toronto at Seattle and the first of two series between the Giants and dodgers, this one in Los Angeles. Three game series that are Tuesday-Thursday worth watching, Kansas City at Cleveland, Yankees at Tampa bay, Detroit at Minnesota and Pittsburgh at Milwaukee. What about Boston and Baltimore you ask, four huge Monday-Thursday games to be played between those two at Camden yards.

The penultimate weekend of the 2016 season will surely not be as important to a couple of the teams featured in this list. But knowing with 28 days left in the season that they all still have a chance to be playing meaningful baseball the weekend of Friday September 23-Sunday September 25, we must include these games. A few of these series open as four game events the prior Thursday, so the four game matchups will be Atlanta at Miami, Philadelphia at the Mets, Angels at Astros, Rockies at Dodgers and Giants at Padres. The three game sets opening Friday are St. Louis at the Cubs, Arizona at Baltimore in interleague play, Washington at Pittsburgh, Boston at Tampa Bay, The White Sox at Cleveland, Kansas city at Detroit and Seattle at Minnesota. The Yankees and Toronto will play four in Toronto Friday through Monday the 26th. Note that 13 of the 15 weekend series could still potentially have impact on the post season races.

Entering the season’s final week, some important series could be in play that open Monday September 26-Thursday September 29. The Monday-Thursday series of four games are cubs at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati at St. Louis. and Cleveland at Detroit for their second September matchup. Three game series Monday-Wednesday include a pair of potentially huge series between the Mets and marlins in Miami and Seattle at Houston. The Tuesday-Thursday series feature a rematch between the Yankees and Red Sox in the Bronx, Baltimore at Toronto, Minnesota at Kansas City, the Dodgers at San Diego and if the Rockies are still alive, they open a series in San Francisco.

The final weekend of the season is almost all three game series Friday September 30-Sunday October 2. One series that could have implications does start on Thursday, Oakland will be at Seattle. The Friday-Sunday matchups to watch are: Baltimore at the Yankees, Toronto at Boston, Detroit at Atlanta in interleague play, Cleveland at Kansas city in their second series of the final month and Houston at the Angels for impacts in the American League. As for important National League series if things break a certain way, Pittsburgh at St. Louis for their second series, Miami at Washington, Mets at Philadelphia, Milwaukee at Colorado and the second matchup between the giants and Dodgers in San Francisco.

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