After Monday's games, seven of the 10 teams that will participate in the MLB postseason are locked in. The puzzle is almost complete. But with six days of baseball left in the regular season, there are still some important things that need to be determined.
Today, we offer up six things that you, the reader, need to know about baseball's postseason picture. On Wednesday, we'll give you five. And so on.
1. The National League teams are set. The hierarchy of them is not. Monday's wild night in the NL Central confirmed that the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds are in the postseason. They'll both still try to unseat the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central title. St Louis has a two-game lead. If neither can, the Pirates and Reds will meet in the Wild Card game. Home-field advantage in that single-elimination game is still up for grabs too. The Braves and Dodgers are the other NL playoff teams, with the Braves currently owning the best record in the NL and home-field advantage.
2. The Detroit Tigers will be the next team to clinch a postseason berth. It's kind of weird that the Pirates have sewn up their postseason spot and the Tigers aren't officially in yet. But they will be. As soon, perhaps, as Tuesday. The Tigers can clinch the AL Central with a win against the Minnesota Twins AND a Cleveland Indians loss. If the Tigers win, they clinch just a postseason berth. Detroit also clinches a postseason berth with a Texas Rangers loss.
3. The best race left is the AL Wild Card. Other than the NL Central teams jockeying for position, this is the really the most important thing that needs deciding. Going into Tuesday's games, the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians have the Wild Card spots. The Rays have a one-game lead over the Indians. And the Indians have a one-game lead over the Texas Rangers. The Royals are three games back. And the Yankees look like this.
4. It's just about a wrap for the Baltimore Orioles. Their un-magic number (i.e. their elimination number) is two. But Monday sure felt like the the end for Baltimore. They lost Manny Machado to injury and then lost their game via a pinch-hit, walk-off homer. Ouch. While the Orioles are technically alive, Fangraphs puts their playoff odds at 0.00%. So ... Houston Astros TV ratings? Word.
5. Speaking of the Astros. They're actually relevant to this postseason conversation. Their last five games are against two contenders — the Texas Rangers, who are looking to catch the Indians, then the New York Yankees, who may have very well fallen to a fiery doom before visiting Houston this weekend. Point is, the Astros could be a doormat to the postseason. Fitting, isn't it? The Indians, meanwhile, have six games left against two not-so-good teams: the White Sox and Twins
6. The A's could catch the Red Sox. And by that, we mean for the best record in the American League and thusly, home-field advantage throughout the AL side of the playoff bracket. The A's are 94-63 while the Red Sox are 95-62. The A's play the Angels on Tuesday and the Red Sox play the Rockies.