There’s only one month left in the season. That’s not very much! I’m still getting used to the season having started, and now it’s going to be over before you know it. For some teams, the final month will be a way to casually prepare themselves for the postseason. For others, it will be a dead sprint to get into the playoffs. For another group, it will present the opportunity to wrap up a disappointing or rebuilding season. But it all means something for someone.
So today at The Thirty, we try to set one goal for each team over the last month of the season. Everybody has a goal. Some will be easier to achieve, and some are more important than others. But everybody has a goal.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Get into the AL Wild Card game
Because the Red Sox and Yankees (and the Rays) have soaked up all the available drama over the last month, it has gotten a little bit lost that the Blue Jays really need to make the playoffs this year. They poured a lot of resources into this season, and it’s fair to say they weren’t planning on getting a fourth-place finish out of it. Can they make a big run?
Orioles: Avoid 116 losses
That would be one more than their 2018 season, which, honestly, everybody sort of thought was as bad as it was going to get at the time. They need to win five more games the rest of the way to at least match their '18 win total, which isn't a guarantee.
Rays: Figure out how the postseason rotation is going to work
The Rays need to hang onto the division, obviously. But if they’re able to do so, I’ll confess, I don’t have the foggiest idea how their rotation is going to work in the AL Division Series -- and I suspect they don’t either.
Red Sox: Get yourself to the AL Wild Card game with Chris Sale pitching
There isn’t a team in baseball that wants to face a healthy Sale in a win-or-go-home game. All the Red Sox need to do is give him, and themselves, that chance.
Yankees: Win the AL East
They can still catch the Rays -- and it very much behooves them to do so … lest they become that very team that has to deal with Sale in that one-game scenario.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cleveland: Keep setting up Cal Quantrill for next year
Quantrill has been fantastic of late and is absolutely putting himself in position to be the next great breakout Cleveland starter heading into 2022. They always come up with one or two of them.
Royals: Try to find any pitchers for next year
The Royals had a nice little offseason boomlet but, as many had suspected, their pitching torpedoed it. Will it be any better next year? They’ve got a month to find some pieces that might fit.
Tigers: Get to, oh, four games under
The Tigers are clearly prepping themselves to make a big leap in 2022 after a pretty solid one this year. They’re probably not going to get all the way to .500, but they can get close enough to consider 2021 undeniable progress.
Twins: Get this season over with
What happens next year is still up in the air. But yeah, it’ll sure be nice to get this tough 2021 in the rearview mirror.
White Sox: Get home-field advantage in their ALDS
The White Sox are cruising away with the AL Central, but it sure would be nice to start their series -- probably against Houston -- on the South Side, wouldn’t it? They might not be able to catch up with whomever wins the AL East, but they could pass the Astros if they get hot.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Get Shohei Ohtani to 50 homers
He’d be only the fifth player in the last 10 years to reach the 50 mark ... and, oh by the way, the first to also be one of the best starting pitchers in the Majors.
A’s: Get into the playoffs by any means necessary
They’re this close, and to fall short -- either in their division or in the AL Wild Card -- would be a crusher.
The Astros are going to be the most popular team to boo all postseason if they make it. They have reached the point that it’s increasingly clear they’re feeding off of it.
Mariners: Just stay over .500
The cavalry is coming, and this might be one of the best teams in the AL in a few years. This year, even if they miss the playoffs, has given them all sorts of good vibes. You just want to make sure you don’t squander them down the stretch.
Rangers: Find more like A.J. Alexy
The rookie was fantastic in his debut start -- and that’s what you’re looking for from the Rangers: Young players who are showing they can be pieces down the line.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Win the division
After a while, even if you’re playing with house money like the Braves are, you end up with something on the line. The Braves went from being “the team everyone wrote off when their best player got hurt” to “the team that would be crushed if it doesn’t win the division” quite fast.
Marlins: Spoil everything for the rest of the division
The Marlins were smart not to overreact to last season’s success and they seem well-positioned for the future. This seems like a terrific time to let the rest of the division know how much of a pain they’re going to be for the next decade.
Mets: Turn it around
August was very tough for the Mets. Will September be any better? They've strung together some wins of late, so there's at least some hope they can finish strong.
Nationals: Keep Juan Soto happy
Someone’s going to be talking about a contract extension at some point and having a team that’s young, exciting and hopeful (with guys like Keibert Ruiz around) is the sort of thing you can build on.
Phillies: Get in the playoffs
It has now been a decade since they made the playoffs -- the second-longest postseason drought in baseball. If not now, when?
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Stay right where they are
The Brewers are perfectly situated in the playoff picture, right now: Avoiding the Dodgers/Giants and likely to have home-field advantage over whomever wins the NL East. That’s the perfect playoff spot: Don’t win too much or lose too much to fall out of it.
Cardinals: Salvage some goodwill
The Cardinals are still in the playoff chase, somehow, even if their fans aren’t exactly electrified by it. Some good vibes could come in handy: Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina would be excellent sources of it.
Cubs: Find some more like Frank Schwindel
The Cubs were heavily mocked when Schwindel suddenly showed up in their lineup, but joke’s on you: He’s been a better hitter than Anthony Rizzo was. These are the sort of finds the Cubs will need this month -- and for many months to come.
Pirates: Get a hot month from Ke'Bryan Hayes
The "Future of the Franchise" has been fine this year, but he hasn’t been the spectacular Rookie of the Year candidate everyone was hoping for. Can he spend this month showing off some future All-Star form?
Reds: Get in the NL Wild Card Game
A lot of frustration the last few years could be released by getting into the Wild Card Game, even if it is against the Padres or Dodgers. The Reds have the inside track. Can they take it?
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Keep Madison Bumgarner going
Did anybody notice that Bumgarner has a 2.97 ERA in the second half of the season? The D-backs have a lot of work to do, but getting their ace -- the one signed through the 2024 season -- back to ace level would be a great base from which to start.
Dodgers: Win that division
The Giants have been pesky. But the Dodgers need to pass them. The last thing the Dodgers want is all of their investment in this season to be on the line in an NL Wild Card Game.
Giants: Hold off the Dodgers
It’s going to be tough. The Dodgers are charging. The Giants have stayed strong, but the difference between a free ride into the NL Division Series (and home-field advantage) and a potential one-bad-night-and-you’re-out in the Wild Card Game is rather immense.
Padres: Don’t you dare miss the playoffs
We know a lot of things have gone wrong that weren’t supposed to. But considering the expectations for this team coming into the season, there isn’t much more disastrous than the Padres staying home in October entirely.
Rockies: Keep those pitchers going
The Rockies have been better than many thought in the last month, largely because of their starting pitching. Have they figured something out in Denver?