The Original: Pennant race will provide excitement

The Major League Baseball season is coming to its end in September, and the action that’s been going on recently guarantees that things will come down to the wire in multiple divisions.

The American League East standings only involve two teams realistically, as always: the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

As of Monday, the Red Sox have a four-game lead on the Yankees. Their lead was much stronger back in May, and even June, when the Sox had a healthy double-digit lead, but the Yankees have climbed back thanks to winning seven of their last ten and 15 of their last 20 games.

Meanwhile the Sox have struggled, and have lost five of their last ten games. This is a recurring event. Every year for the last four years Boston manages to be on top of the AL East early on, only to lose the lead to the Yankees in the final weeks of the season (overall the Yanks have won 9 consecutive AL East titles).

You can only hold down a team with an enormously huge payroll for so long. Boston, however, might be able to prolong (but probably not prevent) the Yankees overtaking them thanks to the fact that they are facing the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays for a three-game series that started Monday. On the other hand, the Yankees have to take on the Angels, who have the second best record in the majors behind Boston, on the road in Anaheim, Calif .

On a side note: I’m from Los Angeles and refuse to call them the L.A. Angels. There will always only be one L.A. team to me : the Dodgers.

Next week will probably determine who wins the AL East as the Yanks and the Sox face each other for a three-game series in the Bronx. I’m calling the Yankees taking over the AL East by the first week of September, at the latest.

In general, the American League has been the better league this season. A look at the top of the divisions in the AL shows that each division leader either has more than 70 wins at this point, or is on the verge of it. Cleveland, the AL Central leader, is the only team to win fewer than 70 times, with 68 wins as of Monday.

Meanwhile, things aren’t so impressive in the National League. It’s probably not fair for me to down the whole league in its entirety; it’s just the NL Central division that has been so poorly.

The Cubs, which are leading the NL Central, are in line to be a division winner even though they are barely above .500 with a 63-59 record as of Monday.

The NL Central has been so bad this season that even our Astros, who have a 56-68 record, are still only eight games behind the NL Central lead. Can we possibly have a repeat of ’04? That year Houston had an unbelievable finish to the season after a rough start similar to this season, but they also had current Yankee pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte winning many games for them then.

That won’t happen anytime soon for the Astros. I think the management needs to get serious when it comes to acquiring quality players. Players like Jason Jennings, who sports a 2-8 record and an embarrassing 11 runs allowed in one inning, just aren’t going to cut it.

I still don’t understand how Houston’s manager Phil Garner left Jennings in the game long enough to rack up 11 runs, but I digress.

Owner Drayton McLane needs to stop being stingy. If he continues to have a small budget for the Astros, how does he expect the team to succeed? You get what you pay for. Still, I am rooting for the Astros and who knows, they might get lucky enough to overcome that eight game lead, provided the Milwaukee Brewers continue to freefall and the Cubs start losing a lot of games.

The last couple of weeks are guaranteed to be exciting, not just because of the aforementioned divisions, but also because of the wild card situation.

The Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees are currently neck-and-neck in the AL wild card standings. The Detroit Tigers are close behind, but the NL wild card standings are most exciting, with an astounding five teams within three and a half games of the wild card-leading San Diego Padres.

Right now I have to say that the Red Sox will take the AL wild card after the Yanks catch up and take the AL East, as has happened for the last several years.

I am picking the Padres to win the NL wild card because their rotation is just outstanding. If they don’t win the NL West outright they only trail the Arizona Diamondbacks by four games. All-Stars Chris Young and Jake Peavy have ERAs hovering around two runs, and as always, future Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman has been great, with 30 saves so far and a 2.09 ERA. If only Houston had pitching like that.

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