With less than 10 days remaining on baseball’s regular season schedule, nine teams are fighting for five wide-open playoff spots.
The Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s have all essentially secured their divisions–the Dodgers have clinched, the Braves and Red Sox are on the verge and the A’s and Tigers have comfortable division leads.
But in the AL Wild Card picture, six teams are battling for two spots. The Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays are currently tied atop the AL Wild Card, leading the Cleveland Indians by half a game, the Baltimore Orioles by two games, the Kansas City Royals by three games and the New York Yankees by three and a half games. It’s worth looking at the remaining schedules for all six AL Wild Card contenders:
Tampa Bay plays the Orioles at home then the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays on the road.
Texas finishes with the Royals on the road then the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels at home.
Cleveland (0.5 GB) gets the Astros and White Sox at home then Twins on the road.
Baltimore (2.0 GB) faces the Rays on the road then the Blue Jays and Red Sox at home.
Kansas City (3.0 GB) plays the Rangers at home then the Mariners and White Sox on the road.
The Yankees (3.5 GB) finish with the San Francisco Giants and Rays at home then the Astros on the road.
Because they’re just half a game back and they have a favorable remaining schedule, the Indians have the best shot at the postseason of all teams not currently in the playoff picture. Should the Indians make the playoffs, it would be their first postseason appearance since 2007, and they will have made the playoffs in 2001 and 2007 and 2013, or every six seasons since 2001.
Baltimore and Kansas City also have a shot at the postseason because they’re about to face the current Wild Card leaders. The Royals must take at least two out of three from Texas and the Orioles must at least split the four-game series with the Rays if they hope to have a chance.
Texas and Tampa Bay can control their own destinies while the Yankees must catch fire in a hurry.
Moving to the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals currently lead the Pittsburgh Pirates by one game and the Cincinnati Reds by two games.
Pittsburgh holds the first Wild Card spot and the Reds (1.0 GB) secure the second. The Washington Nationals are five games back with nine games to play, so they’re in dire straits right now.
The Pirates and Reds square off for a crucial three game series at PNC Park in Pittsburgh starting tonight. This series could have four possible outcomes: the Reds would lead the Pirates by two games if they sweep, the Reds and Pirates would be tied if Cincinnati takes two out of three, the Pirates would lead the Reds by two games if Pittsburgh takes two of three and the Pirates would lead the Reds by four games if Pittsburgh sweeps.
So it’ll either be a tie between these two teams or there will be at least two games of separation. It’s a big series indeed.
After the series, the Reds will play the New York Mets at home while the Pirates will play the Chicago Cubs on the road. Both teams will then meet again to close out the regular season with three games at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are in Milwaukee for three against the Brewers before they finish the season with at home against the Nationals and Cubs.
Based on the remaining schedules of the three NL Central contenders, the Cardinals look poised to win the division unless either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati can beat up on the other, which seems unlikely as they are pretty evenly matched and each team gets to play the other at home.
Looking at the big picture, it seems almost certain that the NL Central and the AL and NL Wild Card races will come down to the last few days of the regular season. It’s likely that at least one or two postseason spots won’t be determined until game No. 162–or later, in case there’s a tie.
The end of the baseball season is always tragic, dramatic, elating. So sit back—try to relax—and enjoy what promises to be a wild ride into October.