Now that there is less than a week left in the regular season, it is time to zoom in with the microscope and focus not on the standings in general, but in the positioning of those teams that are in, and those that are close to in, or in contention. The sum total of those teams has shrunk significantly.
I will be looking at positions 1-4 in each league, and then at those teams just behind but still very much alive, and will be running down who each team will be facing in the next-to-last series of the regular season.
First for the American League
1. New York Yankees 95-60, 1st place AL East and have clinched the division. The Yankees have a magic number of three to clinch the home field advantage through the American League playoffs, and played Tampa Bay on Thursday night. New York hosts the Boston Red Sox this weekend.
2. Detroit Tigers 90-65, 1st place AL Central and have clinched the division. The Tigers still have an opportunity to catch the Yankees for the best record in the AL, but could slip as low as third in the playoff seeding. Detroit is playing a four-game series at home against the Orioles this weekend.
3. Texas Rangers 90-66, 1st place AL West and have a magic number of 3 to clinch the division. The Rangers also have a magic number of 5 to win a Wild Card, should they lose the division. Texas will be at home against the Mariners beginning Friday night.
4. Boston Red Sox 88-68, 2nd place AL East and have a magic number of 5 to clinch the Wild Card, assuming that they do not overtake New York. Boston is at New York this weekend.
If the playoffs began today, the Yankees would host the Rangers and the Tigers would host the Red Sox. Although the Wild Card usually plays the division winner with the best record, two teams from the same division cannot play each other in the first round. If any team besides Boston won the Wild Card, they would play New York, and Detroit and Texas would play in the first round.
Now for the teams still in contention:
Tie 5. Los Angeles Angels 85-70, 2nd place AL West. The Angels trail the Rangers by 4.5 games for the AL West lead, and trail the Red Sox by 2.5 games for the Wild Card. Los Angeles played at Toronto vs. the Blue Jays on Thursday, and will open a series at home against the Athletics on Friday.
Tie 5. Tampa Bay Rays 85-70, 3rd place AL East. The Rays' only hope of making the playoffs is to catch Boston, whom they trail at present by 2.5 games. Tampa Bay played in New York on Thursday and will come home to take on the Blue Jays beginning Friday night.
Now for a look at the National League:
1. Philadelphia Phillies 98-57, 1st place NL East. The Phillies have clinched the best record in the National League.
2. Milwaukee Brewers 91-65, 1st place NL Central. The Brewers have a magic number of 3 to clinch the Central Division. Milwaukee will be home to take on the Marlins this weekend.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks 90-66, 1st place NL West. The Diamondbacks have a magic number of 2 to clinch their division and will have a chance to do that head-to-head this weekend when they take on the Giants at home starting on Friday.
4. Atlanta Braves 88-68, 2nd place NL East. The Braves cannot catch the Phillies, but have a magic number of 5 to clinch the National League Wild Card. Atlanta is at Washington to face the Nationals this weekend.
If the playoffs began today, the Phillies would host the Diamondbacks and the Brewers would host the Braves. As with the American League, since the Braves are in the same division with the team with the best record, they could not play Philadelphia in the first round. Should any team other than the Braves win the Wild Card, they would play the Phillies while the Brewers would play Arizona in the first round.
Now for the teams still in contention:
5. St. Louis Cardinals 86-70, 2nd place NL Central. The Cardinals trail the Braves by two games and their elimination number is 5. St. Louis is at home this weekend vs. the Chicago Cubs.
6. San Francisco Giants 84-71, 2nd place NL West. The Giants are down to an elimination number of 4 for the Wild Card, and to 2 for elimination from the division race. San Francisco played in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on Thursday and will start a series in Arizona on Friday night.
We will see you one more time this season, on Monday, when we will break down the last series of the season for all teams still in contention, either for a playoff spot or for postseason positioning.