SCOTT SIMON, host:

And I know - don't e-mail - the Cubs lost yesterday, but they are still leading their division by a game and a half. It will come down to the final stretch -September for many teams.

We're joined now for that rundown by Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, probably, let me guess, ESPN the shovel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

A friend of our show, so Howard, thanks for being with us.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (Senior Writer, ESPN.com; ESPN The Magazine): Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine. Thanks. Fine. Game and a half up. Listen, the National League, it seems to be division races, and the American League, it's the wild card. Let's talk about the National League first, okay?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, this is the best time of the year. There's no question about that. You've got races, even your Cubs, and I have to admit...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: ...that it's going to be a compelling race. It's a great race, even though they're only three games over 500. And the Cardinals are a game under 500, but there are only two games out of first place. And in the middle of that, you've got the Milwaukee Brewers, who you wonder if they're too young to go steady, but they're in the race.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRYANT: And they're right where they want to be with a month left to go. The kids from Milwaukee, who haven't been to the playoffs since they went to the World Series back in 1982.

SIMON: 1982? Ooh. 1982.

Mr. BRYANT: When I was in the eighth grade.

SIMON: Not 19 - yes. All right.

Mr. BRYANT: And it's a great, great time of year. You have the West, where you've got the Padres and the Diamondbacks, and they're tied up right now. And the Dodgers that you - the team that you thought was going to run away with it right around mid-season, they're trying to stay in the race. It's really great stuff.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: And don't forget, of course, the Philadelphia Phillies...

SIMON: And the Mets, yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: ...who were six games out with the Mets, and then they come in for four. And the home team, Philadelphia, sweep them, and now it's a two-game race there. It's wonderful.

SIMON: Now, over in the American League, it seems to be mostly about the wild card because you've got Boston five games up over New York and Cleveland, I think, five and a half over Detroit - if I'm not mistaken.

Mr. BRYANT: Yup.

SIMON: But let's - the Yankees had a terrific series against Boston this week.

Mr. BRYANT: Yes, wonderful series against Boston and especially when you look at the dynamic because a week ago I was trying to figure out where I was going. Was I going to go to the Philadelphia-New York Mets series, or was I going to go to Red Sox-Yankees?

And then suddenly it was a four-game race in the American League East. And so now I'm thinking, okay, with four - with a four-game lead and a three-game series, I have to go to Red Sox-Yankees. Then the Yankees go out and lose four games out of 10. And now, it's an eight-game race. And so you're thinking there's nothing - there's no drama here.

And so what happens? The Yankees get beat 16-to-nothing by the Tigers in the last road game. And then they come home and they sweep the first-place Red Sox. And so now, it's a five-game race. And they still play the Red Sox three more times, so don't quite close the door yet on the American League East division. The real interesting story in the American League is, well, is the Seattle Mariners.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: ...who were moving right along. They were the feel-good story just like Milwaukee and now, they've lost seven in a row. And you're wondering if they only have about 140 games in them, if they're running out of gas, if the tank is empty. They come to New York next week for three games - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. It's going to be great, great games.

SIMON: And that - we should note the Mariners are now six-and-a-half games behind the Los Angeles Anaheim, West Covina, Angels, whatever they're calling themselves these days. So what series you have your eye on coming up this month?

Mr. BRYANT: To me, I'm always interested in the American League East because once again you've got that wonderful dynamic between - you've got Red Sox, you've got the Yankees, you've got a great pennant race between those two. And don't forget the wild card. I thought the Central was going to be a little bit closer because I didn't think the Tigers were going to fall out the way they have, but they're still in it on - for the wild card as well.

I think the thing to watch in the American League is whether or not the Seattle Mariners can hold on. They are a very interesting story because the manager, Mike Hargrove, quit on them in the middle of the season.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: And they weren't supposed to do anything, and yet they kept on winning and...

SIMON: Howard, we got to go.

Mr. BRYANT: I'm gone.

SIMON: But let's keep talking during the break.

Mr. BRYANT: All right.

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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