For me the most exciting race in baseball is the race to see which team will be the first to be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Last year, Tampa Bay was the first team eliminated and that was on September 8. The White Sox followed on September 9. Both teams are enjoying 2008 more than 2007.
This year, it appears to be a two-team race between Seattle and Washington.
After their 15-3 loss to the White Sox today, the Mariners are at a robust 46-80 (.365) and trail the Angels by 31 games in the standings. And the Mariners have but 36 games left to play. The Mariners don't have much in the way of wild card hopes either as they are 27 games behind Boston.
Seattle's losses plus the Angels win equals 156 (80 + 76), a number dangerously close to 163, which is not a number you want to see.
But don't count out the Nats. Coming into tonight's game against Washington, the Nats have lost 11 straight and are 44-82 (.349). They trail the first place Mets by 25 games and the wild card is even further out of reach as the Brewers are presently 3 games better than the Mets.
The Nats upcoming schedule is not favorable. After they finish up their series in Philadelphia, they travel to Chicago. Then they come back home to play the Dodgers for three, before they get something of a break when the Braves come to DC on August 29.
The Mariners, on the other hand, are going home to host Oakland for four games. The A's have been dismal since the break and their best pitcher, Justin Duchscherer, is hurt now. However, the rules of baseball mandate that somebody has to win one of these upcoming four games at Safeco.
On the brighter side, some teams control their own destiny, at least in the sense of making the playoffs. (I was raised Catholic, not Calvinist.) They are Tampa Bay, Boston, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, Philadelphia, Florida, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee (wild card only), St. Louis (wild card only), Arizona, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Angels and Cubs could conceivably make the playoffs without winning another game the whole season.