This isn't how Bud Selig thought his September was going to go. Two months ago, the National Football League was in danger of losing its season to a lockout, and Major League Baseball was salivating over the thought of its pennant races playing out without competition from its rival league. Instead, the NFL lockout ended in late July and the pennant races largely resolved themselves by the end of August, turning the tables on baseball's dream scenario.
Fortunately for Selig, one race worth watching has materialized: the AL West clash between the defending division champion Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Unlike in the AL East, where the Yankees and Red Sox are jockeying for position but will both make the playoffs, there's no wild card spot to fall back on for the Rangers or the Angels, who were as much as seven games back in mid-August but now trail Texas by just 2 ½ games entering Friday (they are seven games behind Boston for the wild card). The Rangers will be in Anaheim for the season's final series from Sept. 26-28, and this race could well come down to those three games. In the meantime, the Angels will throw their top three pitchers at the visiting Yankees this weekend, while the Rangers welcome the A's to Arlington.
Just because there isn't a plethora of pennant races doesn't mean baseball should be put on the backburner as the NFL season kicks off. In fact, here are five September storylines to keep an eye on:
Verlander has the AL Cy Young on lockdown but in the NL, the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw will try to steal the award from reigning winner Roy Halladay. And the AL Rookie of the Year race, which could wind up being between the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson and the Angels' Trumbo, is also yet to be decided and could go down to the season's final week.
There's more to come, too. Drew Pomeranz, the top prospect received by the Rockies in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, will make his first major league start on Sunday against Mesoraco's Reds. Among those who could be added to major league rosters in the coming week are pitching prospects Dellin Betances of the Yankees, Matt Moore of the Rays, and Jarrod Parker and Trevor Bauer of the Diamondbacks, the latter of whom the started the year with UCLA and was the No. 3 pick in the draft just three months ago.