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Sports What's at stake over the final week of the MLB season?

05:33  22 september  2020
05:33  22 september  2020 Source:   thescore.com

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Major League Baseball is about to reach the final day of the 2019 regular season , and a lot still hangs in the balance. For one thing, the Cole’ s Astros-record 316 punchouts give him a big cushion over his teammate Justin Verlander, who sits at an even 300 after his final start of the year Saturday.

Cleveland Indians over Houston Astros for No. 1 seed in AL: 5. The other slots are essentially locked in, barring crazy stuff this week . Some teams won't make an official announcement on their playoff rotation until the dead time between the end of the regular season and the start of the division series

a batter catcher and umpire during a baseball game © Ron Vesely / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Major League Baseball's protracted and unprecedented 2020 regular season is hurtling toward its conclusion, but plenty of scenarios are still at play.

The final seven days of the campaign are shaping up to be jam-packed - from award races to playoff spots, and maybe the odd milestone.

Here's what you need to look out for in the regular season's final week.

Bringing home the hardware

Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber is a virtual lock to win the AL Cy Young this season, but the rest of the awards remain fairly wide open.

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NL MVP

a baseball player holding a bat: Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty © Provided by theScore Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

After hitting .194 with two home runs over the first 17 games in September, San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. might not finish within the top three unless he significantly rebounds.

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has surged into the front-runner slot with a .346 batting average, 1.098 OPS, 11 home runs, and more walks than strikeouts. But he's not alone: Since Aug. 18, Tatis' teammate Manny Machado has reminded everyone why the Padres broke the bank to sign him, hitting .398/.424/.761 with 11 home runs in 125 plate appearances.

Due to that streak, Machado's moved into a tie for the NL home run lead with the other top MVP candidate, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. Betts joined the powerhouse club via offseason trade and was immediately the best player on the roster, hitting .303/.376/.597 alongside his top-shelf power.

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There’ s a lot at stake entering the final week of the MLB regular season , with several postseason spots still up for grabs and home field advantage There’ s no love lost between the two clubs, who’ve had their share of dust-ups over the years. Kevin Cash’ s crew really needs to avoid settling for a

Here' s what to watch for the final week The National League playoff races. Some key injuries over the weekend: • Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has torn cartilage in his wrist. Gregorius injured the wrist sliding into home on Saturday, and an MRI revealed a small tear.

AL MVP

a baseball player holding a bat: Mike Stobe / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Mike Stobe / Getty Images Sport / Getty

While the NL race may be Freeman's to lose, the Junior Circuit will almost be too close to call. New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit leads baseball with 21 home runs and teammate DJ LeMahieu has been a nearly impossible out.

But what about the Los Angeles Angels duo of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon? Sure, the Angels are about to miss the playoffs (again), but Trout (.292/.395/.611, 16 home runs) and Rendon (.277/.416/.503) haven't been the root cause of the team's struggles.

Similarly, Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu are a pair of viable options for the Chicago White Sox. Anderson has defied naysayers en route to a .360 batting average while the veteran Abreu is having his best career year at 33.

And it's still possible that Bieber's dominance on the mound could make him the first pitcher to win MVP since Clayton Kershaw in 2014.

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The 2019 MLB regular season has just one week left before coming to a conclusion. Their real season is just over a week away. Madison Bumgarner is lined up to pitch the final game of the season . Will he be saying goodbye along with his manager? Power Rankings: Plenty at stake .

What ' s still at stake the final week of the regular season . In fact, the A's are already tied for the most wins by any team that ranked last in payroll over the past 30 years, with a whopping 94 compared to the average of 72.4 by clubs with the lowest Opening Day payroll in MLB over that span.

NL Cy Young

a baseball player is getting ready to pitch the ball: Adam Hunger / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Adam Hunger / Getty Images Sport / Getty

As up in the air as the AL MVP race may be, the NL Cy Young conversation will keep raging into the autumn because of the sheer volume of worthy candidates.

There are at least 10 pitchers in the running with a week to play. New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom, barring an injury recurrence, is slated to make two starts (vs. Tampa, at Washington). Performing well in those matchups could give him the edge over resurgent Chicago Cubs veteran Yu Darvish or Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes and his NL-leading 1.77 ERA.

Meanwhile, Dinelson Lamet leads the NL in strikeouts - with Trevor Bauer sitting one behind - Clayton Kershaw tops in WHIP, Max Fried has not allowed a single home run in 55 innings, and Kyle Hendricks paces the league with an 8.71 K/BB. There's no shortage of notable contenders in the Senior Circuit, and with each prospect expecting to make at least one more start, the final week should determine who walks away with the hardware.

AL batting title

a close up of a man in a baseball uniform holding a ball: Michael Hickey / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Michael Hickey / Getty Images Sport / Getty

LeMahieu (.361) and Anderson (.360) are neck-and-neck for the league's best batting average in addition to their pursuit of the AL MVP. LeMahieu and the Yankees square off against the Blue Jays and Marlins in the final week while Anderson's White Sox take on the Indians and Cubs. Anderson left Sunday's game against Cincinnati early due to hamstring cramps, and the club listed him as day-to-day. If LeMahieu can pull it out, he'll become the first player ever to win a batting title in both leagues.

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The Major League Baseball ( MLB ) season schedule generally consists of 162 games for each of the 30 teams in the American League (AL) and National League (NL), played over approximately six months—a total of 2,430 games, plus the postseason.

Anyway, welcome to the final week of the regular season . Excluding division leaders, we still have nine teams with a mathematical chance at one of Seedings are still up in the air, and plenty of the individual awards remain too close to call. Since ballots must be filled out before the first playoff game

Wild cards

The expanded postseason has opened up the race to many more teams, and neither league has a finalized playoff picture yet.

AL

Hyun-jin Ryu in a baseball uniform throwing a ball: Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty © Provided by theScore Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Cleveland and Toronto appear to have the AL Wild Card spots mostly secure, but the Blue Jays have been slumping - Sunday's win snapped a six-game losing streak - and still play the Yankees four more times. Even if they keep sliding, the onus shifts to the Mariners (vs. Astros, at A's), Angels (at Padres, at Dodgers), or Orioles (at Boston, at Toronto) to go on a scorching run.

NL

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: Andy Lyons / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Andy Lyons / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The NL race is a bit tighter, and it's worth noting that the St. Louis Cardinals could drop from second place in the Central if things continue to go south. Should that happen, either the Reds or Brewers would replace the Cardinals in the Central and No. 6 seed, with the other potentially taking a wild card spot from St. Louis as well.

With Bryce Harper becoming the latest Phillie to suffer an injury during Sunday's loss, Philadelphia's hold on the No. 7 seed could be tenuous, and losing Harper for any amount of time will hurt the team's chances. The longest odds belong to the Mets, but they do get two starts from deGrom, so it's not impossible.

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NL East title

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Miami Marlins are three games behind the Atlanta Braves with a week to play, and the clubs square off four more times. The Marlins have overcome a widespread COVID-19 outbreak, forcing some creative roster tweaking. Miami has managed to win most of their games despite starting the season with extremely low expectations.

It may be a big ask, but the Marlins have split the season series so far at three games apiece, showing they can hold their own. But even if they somehow sweep the Braves, it may not be enough - Miami travels to the Bronx for a three-game set against the suddenly unstoppable Yankees to wrap up the schedule.

However, the Marlins still have a chance.

AL division races

All three AL divisions remain unsettled, and some long droughts could end by next weekend.

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport / Getty © Provided by theScore Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Tampa Bay Rays are not only owners of the Junior Circuit's best record but are also poised to win their first AL East title in a decade. In Oakland, the A's are marching towards owning the AL West for the first time since 2013, and they can be the first AL team to clinch a division as early as Monday. If the White Sox can hold off the Minnesota Twins, they'll claim AL Central dominance for the first time since 2008.

The closest AL race is in the Central, where the White Sox - who are trying for their first division crown since 2008 - hold a two-game lead over Minnesota. The South Siders top the division, but face a tough schedule in the final week of traveling to Cleveland for four games before returning home to host the crosstown-rival Cubs.

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The Twins, meanwhile, get six games at Target Field - two against the fading Tigers, and three versus Cincinnati, who may also have something to play for on the final weekend. Home-field advantage for the second-place Central team in a first-round series against the Yankees - which the Twins hold right now - is also potentially on the line. There's a decent chance this one goes down to the wire.

Mountcastle pushing for top rookie

a baseball player throwing a ball: Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty © Provided by theScore Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Had Ryan Mountcastle debuted earlier - and maintained a similar offensive pace - he'd already have the AL Rookie of the Year trophy on his mantle. Nevertheless, a big week could position him to leapfrog Seattle Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis or budding White Sox phenom Luis Robert.

The Orioles slugger has raked since the day he got the call. He's only gone hitless in consecutive games twice and has already notched 11 multi-hit games. Lewis is still in the driver's seat, but there's room for Mountcastle to take advantage of down the stretch.

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