- Associated Press - Monday, September 5, 2011

The final month of the baseball season is upon us, and intrigue is unusually absent with the postseason looming.

The contenders have been identified, and the pretenders are looking forward to the offseason.

Four of the six division leaders have cushions of at least six games, and the wild-card races are all but over as well. The Phillies, Brewers and Diamondbacks are rolling to division titles in the National League, with the Atlanta Braves enjoying a comfortable lead over St. Louis and San Francisco for the NL wild card.

Things are a little tighter in the American League, which features the only two races worth watching. Justin Verlander and the Tigers are up 7 1/2 games on the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central, but it does get interesting on both coasts.

The New York Yankees lead the Boston Red Sox by 2 1/2 games in the East. And even though the loser of the race will get into the playoffs, there is still that division title and valuable playoff positioning at stake.

Out West, the defending AL champion Texas Rangers have seemed like the class of the division for most of the season, but the Los Angeles Angels and their stellar rotation just keep hanging around. The Angels were 3 1/2 games back with 22 games to play, plenty of time to make their move.

The champion Giants already have started cutting some of their veterans loose, so if the Rangers falter in the AL, that would mean that neither team from last year’s World Series would make the playoffs for just the third time since 1991, according to STATS, LLC.

The Cardinals and Tigers failed to make it in 2007 after facing off in the ‘06 World Series and the White Sox and Astros both missed out in 2006 after playing in ‘05.

With so much of the drama missing from the push for the playoffs, much of the attention will turn to the MVP races, which are as wide open as ever.

Will Verlander become the first pitcher since 1992 to win in the AL? Will Matt Kemp be able to overcome the Dodgers’ lousy season to win it in the National League?

Here’s a quick look at what to watch for as the 2011 regular season winds to a close:


BEST RACES: All the action is in the American League this September.

_AL East: Ever since picking up hit No. 3,000, Derek Jeter has put all those questions about being washed up behind him and Curtis Granderson continues his pursuit of the MVP award as the Yankees lead the Red Sox.

_AL West: The Rangers led the division by as many as seven games in the middle of August, but Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana have pitched the Angels right back into the mix. They trailed the Rangers by 3 1/2 games when Monday began.

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