The seven most important series left on the MLB schedule

Dexter Fowler hopes to thwart his former team from going on another World Series run. David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

While the 2018 Major League Baseball schedule was released yesterday, this season’s pennant race carries on at a breakneck pace and still has plenty of twists and turns to take before resolving itself on Oct. 1.

There are still several vital series in the lead-up to this year’s postseason. One such series is playing out now  with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies opening the week with an exciting pairing of the National League’s Wild Card leaders. With three playoff spots still very much up for grabs, along with postseason positioning and a potential flirtation with home run immortality still in the weeds, the stakes are set to get even higher.

Here is a look at the standout series still to come on the MLB schedule and the ramifications they could carry.

Orioles at Yankees, Sept. 14-17 

The Yankees' road to defending their ground atop the American League Wild Card race sees several direct challenges before the season concludes, the first of which is directly in their sights this weekend. Until a week ago, the Orioles were mounting quite the comeback but have now fallen 4.5 games out of the race after dropping their last six games.

Although the O’s are likely out of the race for a postseason position themselves, they still represent a dangerous potential spoiler. With four games in the Bronx, the prospects of dealing with a still-hot Manny Machado (.326 second-half batting average) are not that appealing for a Yankees team that has been rediscovering its groove thus far this month.

Anthony Rendon and the Nationals have a chance to send a message to the Dodgers. Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Dodgers at Nationals, Sept. 15-17 

Yes, the Dodgers finally got off their record losing skid Tuesday night and clinched the NL West title in the process, but the perception of their playoff potential has changed after the previous juggernaut came crashing back down to Earth.

A good measuring mark of who they really are could come in this weekend’s trip to face the Nationals in a pairing of the only two teams in the game that have officially sewn up their playoff invitations thus far. For the Dodgers, it is a chance to re-establish themselves in a head-to-head matchup with the team that may have supplanted them as the favorites to emerge from the NL this fall. For the Nats, it is an opportunity to win the mental battle of putting down their closest competition before a potential matchup the National League Championship Series.

Twins at Yankees, Sept. 18-20 

This pairing could be a preview of what's to come as the leading contenders for the American League Wild Card play-in game. Both teams are ascending, with the Yankees winning their last four series entering the weekend and Minnesota twice posting shutout victories of 16 or more runs this month.

The stakes in the series are clear: The Twins have a direct opportunity to gain ground in swinging home-field advantage in their favor, whereas if they stumble it would open up a huge opportunity for the Los Angeles Angels to potentially make up ground in the Wild Card race and spice things up even further.

For added intrigue, the starter in the first game of the series is currently slated to be none other than Jaime Garcia, who made one start for the Twins in August before being dealt to the Bronx. A bit of revenge could be in the air in what is sure to be a hotly contested series.

Cubs at Cardinals, Sept. 25-28 

While the Cardinals and Cubs don't need any further motivation to go after one another, pitting the two rivals against each other in a four-game set that could potentially determine the winner of the division is what dreams are made of in September baseball.

The series will be the second time in just over a week that the NL Central's top two teams will face off, and depending on how this upcoming weekend at Wrigley Field plays out, it very well could be the hill that one of these bitter rivals dies upon. For the Cardinals, it represents a chance to pay back the decisive loss they took in the 2015 NLDS, while for the Cubs it is a chance to save face in a season that is on the edge of reaching monumental disappointment.

The gauntlet is ahead for Cubbies. This series is the second half of a 10-game road trip, with eight contests in Milwaukee and St. Louis, and it could define the storyline of their championship hangover season.

The Indians just keep on winning. David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Twins at Indians, Sept. 26-28 

While the Indians are just waiting on the mathematics of their second-straight AL Central title to roll in, this series does not mean as much for them as it does for the Twins. Ss reference earlier, this will be the second time in the season’s final two weeks they will face off against a potential early-round postseason foe.

On the heels of their historic winning streak, the Indians now carry the best record in the AL, which would send the winner of the AL Wild Card game to Cleveland to start the postseason. If the Twins are to keep their head up in that race, however, they will need to find a way to best their chief antagonists on the road, as the Tribe has won 10 of 16 against Minnesota this year.

Astros at Red Sox, Sept. 28– Oct. 1 

Oh how the mighty have fallen. The second half of the year has not been kind to the Astros, to put it lightly. Since the All-Star break, they have actually been two games south of .500 after being 30 games north of breaking even on Aug. 8. While their incredibly hot start to the season (as well as the oft-mediocre play within their division) has never put their hold on the AL West in jeopardy, their slide has cost them control over home-field advantage in the playoffs

Enter the Boston Red Sox, who are just five games behind the Astros entering play on Wednesday with just over two weeks to go. If Houston continues to fail down the stretch and the Red Sox pick up the pace slightly, the final regular-season stop for both teams could take on some serious seeding importance — and it could be settled in a head-to-head fashion. The two clubs are currently on a trajectory to face off in the ALDS and playing for the right to have home-field advantage in the No. 2- vs. No. 3-seed series in the league in a four-game regular-season finale series at Fenway Park.

Marlins at Braves, Sept. 28 – Oct. 1 

If you stepped away for a few days, no, you have not missed anything here. Neither the Marlins or Braves have anything other than contractual obligation and whatever ticket sales are left to make to play for this year. However, the final series of the year for Miami could be the most well-watched Marlins baseball since the 2003 World Series because Giancarlo Stanton could be narrowing in on historic home run heights in the final series of the season.

Stanton is currently on pace to pop 61 homers on the year, which would draw him to a tie with Roger Maris's former single-season standard. Yet with the increased attention and debate over the validity of what the home run record "truly" is, all eyes will follow Giancarlo’s every move as he continues to climb the charts.

If for nothing else, seeing a guy hit homers the way he does is really, really fun. Appreciate it while you can.

QUIZ: Name every player who has hit 50 or more home runs in an MLB season

A MLB player has hit 50 or more home runs in a season 43 times prior to the 2016 season. How many of these prolific sluggers of them can you name in five minutes?

Good luck!



73 / SF / 2001
Barry Bonds
70 / STL / 1998
Mark McGwire
66 / CHC / 1998
Sammy Sosa
65 / STL / 1999
Mark McGwire
64 / CHC / 2001
Sammy Sosa
63 / CHC / 1999
Sammy Sosa
61 / NYY / 1961
Roger Maris
60 / NYY / 1927
Babe Ruth
59 / NYY / 1921
Babe Ruth
58 / PHA / 1932
Jimmie Foxx
58 / DET / 1938
Hank Greenberg
58 / PHI / 2006
Ryan Howard
58 / 2TM / 1997
Mark McGwire
57 / ARZ / 2001
Luis Gonzalez
57 / TEX / 2002
Alex Rodriguez
56 / CHC / 1930
Hack Wilson
56 / SEA / 1997
Ken Griffey Jr.
56 / SEA / 1998
Ken Griffey Jr.
54 / NYY / 1920
Babe Ruth
54 / NYY / 1928
Babe Ruth
54 / PIT / 1949
Ralph Kiner
54 / NYY / 1961
Mickey Mantle
54 / BOS / 2006
David Ortiz
54 / NYY / 2007
Alex Rodriguez
54 / TOR / 2010
Jose Bautista
53 / BAL / 2013
Chris Davis
52 / NYY / 1956
Mickey Mantle
52 / SF / 1965
Willie Mays
52 / CIN / 1977
George Foster
52 / OAK / 1996
Mark McGwire
52 / TEX / 2001
Alex Rodriguez
52 / CLE / 2002
Jim Thome
51 / NYG / 1947
Johnny Mize
51 / PIT / 1947
Ralph Kiner
51 / NYG / 1955
Willie Mays
51 / DET / 1990
Cecil Fielder
51 / ATL / 2005
Andruw Jones
50 / BOS / 1938
Jimmie Foxx
50 / BAL / 1996
Brady Anderson
50 / CLE / 1996
Albert Belle
50 / SD / 1998
Greg Vaughn
50 / CHC / 2000
Sammy Sosa
50 / MIL / 2007
Prince Fielder

Matt Whitener is St. Louis-based writer, radio host and 12-6 curveball enthusiast. He has been covering Major League Baseball since 2010, and dabbles in WWE, NBA and other odd jobs as well. Follow Matt on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.


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