It has come down to this: all of the divisional races have been decided, but man oh man, the Wild Cards in both leagues truly are up for grabs, with two different teams clinging to a one-game lead as we head into the last three games of the regular season.
Here then is a look at who's in, who plays whom among teams battling for playoff positioning, and of course, where we stand in the Wild Card races.
First for the American League:
New York Yankees (97-62) -- The Yankees have clinched the best record in the American League and will have the home field advantage in any series in the playoffs until the World Series. New York, at present, would face the Detroit Tigers in the first round, since the Red Sox are in the same division and the team with the best record cannot play a team in its own division in the first round.
- Texas Rangers (93-66) -- The Rangers lead the Tigers by one game, and at present would face the Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs. Texas will finish the regular season at Los Angeles against the Angels, who have just a breath of a chance left.
- Detroit Tigers (92-67) -- The Tigers, as noted above, would play the Yankees if the playoffs started today. Detroit finishes the regular season with a three-game series at home vs. the Indians.
- Boston Red Sox (89-70) -- The Red Sox hold a slim one-game lead for the AL Wild Card and conclude the regular season with a series in Baltimore vs. the Orioles.
Tampa Bay Rays (88-71) -- The Rays are giving it their all in the Wild Card chase, but must finish the season with three games at home against the Yankees. If Tampa Bay wins the Wild Card, they would play either Detroit or Texas in the first round, depending upon which team finishes with the second-best record in the AL.
Los Angeles Angels (86-73) -- The only way that the Angels could be in the postseason mix would be if they sweep the Rangers while the Red Sox are swept by the Orioles and the Rays lose at least two-of-three to the Yankees. If the Angels survive to make it into a Wild Card playoff and end up winning the Wild Card, they would play New York in the opening round.
And now for our final look at the National League:
- Philadelphia Phillies (99-60) -- The Phillies have clinched the best record in the National League and have home-field advantage all the way through the World Series. As it stands at present (and subject to change), Philadelphia would face the Diamondbacks in the first round, since the Braves at present own the Wild Card spot and the Phillies and Braves -- being from the same division -- could not meet in the first round.
- Milwaukee Brewers (94-65) -- The Brewers, if the playoffs started today, would have a very interesting matchup in the first round with the Braves -- who of course left Milwaukee over 40 years ago for Atlanta. The Brewers finish the regular season at home against the Pirates.
- Arizona Diamondbacks (93-66) -- Arizona is at present in the unenviable position of having to play the Phillies in the first round if the playoffs began today. The Diamondbacks wrap up the regular season at home vs. the Dodgers.
Atlanta Braves (89-70) -- The Braves are hanging on by a thread with a one-game lead over the Cardinals heading into the last three days of play in the regular season. Atlanta is at home for a season-ending series vs. the Phillies, who may have much to say about who their opponent will be in the first round. If the Braves hang on and win the Wild Card they would play either Milwaukee or Arizona in the first round, depending upon which of those teams finished with the second-best record in the NL.
- St. Louis Cardinals (88-71) -- The Cardinals have a distinct advantage even though they trail the Braves by a game, as Atlanta must finish with Philadelphia while St. Louis goes to Houston to play the 104-loss Astros. Should St. Louis earn the Wild Card they would play Philadelphia in the first round.
I hope, if you have been following along through the course of the season, that you have enjoyed these updates. There has been trial-and-error and experimentation along the way, and I am sure that next season things will be more refined from the get-go.
One thing is for certain: it has been fun for me to take this ride and watch things begin to clear up, and then to fall into place as week has followed week.
If you have any suggestions on how this would be "better" or "more pleasing" for you to read next season, please let me know.