We’ve reached the home stretch of Major League Baseball’s 60-game season and there’s a lot left to sort out. Between now and the start of the postseason, we’ll keep you updated on all the latest developments.
The Chicago White Sox have ended their 12-year postseason drought — and the Tampa Bay Rays are back in the postseason for the second straight year. Yes, the American League playoff picture is starting to take shape.
Chicago punched its ticket with a 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday. The White Sox were the first American League team to secure a spot in MLB’s expanded 16-team postseason. MVP candidate Jose Abreu brought the White Sox back twice Thursday, first with a solo homer then with an RBI single in the seventh that countered Twins star Josh Donaldson’s go-ahead, ejection-prompting dinger. Eloy Jimenez followed with the go-ahead RBI double.
Tampa Bay, a few hours later, swept a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles to secure their spot. They won the first game 3-1 and then broke a 6-6 tie in the fifth inning with a four-run outburst that led to a 10-6 win.
Both teams now set their sights on division championships. The White Sox haven’t won the AL Central since 2008. Their lead over Minnesota grew to three games on Thursday, and the magic number for the division crown dropped to eight. The Rays, meanwhile, have a 3.5 game lead over the Yankees, who have have won eight straight and found their offensive mojo.
The White Sox are also making a bid for the No. 1 overall seed in the AL. While home-field won’t hold the same meaning this season, it would be a remarkable accomplishment for one of MLB’s youngest teams. The Rays are only a game back from Chicago.
The Los Angeles Dodgers became the first MLB team to nail down a postseason spot on Wednesday afternoon.
Magic Number Countdown
ATHLETICS: The A’s are the only team with a chance to lock up a playoff spot Friday. Their magic number to clinch is one heading into a weekend series against Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco Giants.
TWINS and PADRES: Their clinch numbers are three heading into the weekend, meaning they can’t clinch Friday but can this weekend. The Twins face the Cubs in Chicago and Padres are playing the Mariners in San Diego. The series was moved to San Diego because of poor air quality in Seattle, so the Mariners will be the home team.
AL EAST: While the Rays are in the postseason, there’s still a matter of the AL East title. And while that may have seemed like a foregone conclusion just a week ago, the red-hot Yankees have closed the gap to 3.5 games. New York won its eighth straight game Thursday.
NL EAST: The Miami Marlins, hoping to shock the world, lost Thursday. The first-place Braves were idle, so their lead increased to three games. The Phillies also lost Thursday, so Miami’s lead for second place in the NL East stayed at 1.5 games.
NL WILD CARD: The Giants won, so the Phillies’ loss gives San Francisco a one-game lead for the top NL wild card. The Cardinals, half a game out from that second wild-card spot, also lost, so they couldn’t make up ground on the Phillies.
Games to Watch
Giants vs. A’s (9:40 p.m. ET) — The A’s can lock up a playoff spot, but the Giants remain in the thick of the postseason hunt. Oakland has Chris Bassitt on the mound vs. Logan Webb.
Twins vs. Cubs (7:15 p.m. ET) — The best matchup of contenders of the weekend. The Cubs are trying to get closer to clinching a playoff spot, while the Twins are within reach of a postseason berth and would prefer not to get drubbed by both Chicago teams.
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