The storied time is upon us again. The air is crisper, the days are shorter, and playoff baseball is just on the horizon. Coming off of quite possibly the most unusual Major League Baseball season in history in 2020, the 2021 playoffs are a highly anticipated event.

As with almost all professional sports leagues, the COVID-19 pandemic altered the format of the 2020 MLB season. With only 60 games instead of the usual 162, and playoff series’ occuring at neutral sites, it simply did not feel like a genuine World Series championship win for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. I could also just be a biased San Francisco Giants fan, but who knows?

Speaking of the Giants, they are one of the six teams to have clinched a postseason berth as of September 29 along with the Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, and St. Louis Cardinals. While it’s true that the Dodgers and Giants are set to advance to the postseason, the NL West Pennant is still up for grabs—the Giants only have a two game lead. Other teams on the brink of a confirmed spot include the Houston Astros about to nab the AL West title and the Atlanta Braves, who currently lead the NL East by three and a half games. In the National League, the table is almost fully set, with either the Giants or Dodgers playing the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card game.

Yet there is still drama brewing in the American League, as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, and Oakland A’s all vy for the two AL wild card spots. All five teams are within three-and-a-half games of one another, ensuring an intense final week of play.

As of now, CBS sports analysts project high odds of an NL West team bringing home the hardware, as the Dodgers and Giants are slated as the two favorites to win it all, followed by the Astros. Perhaps the Astros will be able to pull themselves out of the endless barrage of insults stemming from their sign-stealing scandal, and rewrite their postseason story from one of cheating, to one of earned success. We will simply have to wait and see because, as we know, anything can happen in baseball. The postseason officially begins on October 5 and promises to deliver nail-biting games and electric series’ worthy of a true return to baseball normalcy.

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