The Race for the MLB Playoffs: Spots up for Grabs in the AL and NL Wild Card

The MLB Playoffs are just around the corner and the race for playoff spots is still very much alive for some teams. Here’s a look at what spots are open for the taking and who has the best chances of getting in to the big dance. Click to jump to the NL.

American League

AL East

With 13 games remaining on each of their schedules, the Red Sox (85-64) sit with a three-game lead over the Yankees (82-67) atop the American League East. Despite having a tougher schedule of games remaining Boston is still in great position to win the division. Boston begins a three game series against the Orioles in Baltimore (73-77) tonight, then head to Cincinnati  (66-84) for three games against the Reds. After the quick road trip they return home to face the Toronto Blue Jays (70-80) for three games, and they end the season by welcoming the Houston Astros (91-58) to Fenway for a four game series that could determine home field advantage in the playoffs.

The Yankees on the other hand, play 10 of their last 13 games, including their last seven at home. Their remaining games include three against the Twins (78-71), three against the Tampa Bay Rays (73-77), six against the Blue Jays and one against the Kansas City Royals (73-76). Boston’s magic number of wins needed to clinch the division currently sits at 11 games. It’s unlikely the Yankees have enough time to catch the Red Sox especially since both teams are playing great baseball as the regular season winds to an end.

Both teams have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games, so my prediction is that the Red Sox will be able to hold on to the lead and win their second AL East Division Title in a row.

May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) pitches during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

AL Wildcard

Even though their odds for a Divisional Championship seem improbable, the Yankees are still in line for a spot in the Wild Card game. They are currently four games ahead of the Minnesota Twins who sit in the second wild card spot, and six games ahead of the Angels (76-73), the closest challenger to the Twins. New York’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is eight wins, which would put the Yankees in the Wild Card game for the second time since its inception in 2012 (lost 3-0 to Houston in 2015).


The Twins have the strongest chance to take the first wild card spot, and more importantly home field advantage in the Wild Card game, away from the Yankees. The two teams begin a three game series tonight in the Bronx, which gives Minnesota a chance to close the gap to one game by the end of the series. Following their stint in the Bronx, Minnesota will head to Detroit (62-87) for four games and Cleveland (93-57) for three before finally ending the season back home with a three game series against the Tigers again. The last time the Twins and Yankees played, Minnesota took two of three games.

The Angels (76-73) are still chasing hard for a wild card spot and caught a good break by having the two teams directly ahead of them playing each other. They will have the opportunity to gain a few games in the standings if they can take care of business when they play Cleveland this week. The Angels will need to catch fire to make this race interesting as they have gone 4-6 in their past ten games and run the risk of falling even further behind unless they can flip the switch soon.

After the Angels, the Mariners (74-76), Rangers (73-76), Royals (73-76), Orioles (73-77) and the Blue Jays (73-77) all sit between 4.5 and 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second wild card spot. They will all be rooting for the Yanks this week because it’s unlikely any of these teams can make a push strong enough to get into the playoffs without the Twins losing the series to the Yankees. If I had to pick one of these teams I thought had the best chance to get into the wild card game it would be Seattle. Although they just got swept by Houston, their remaining schedule is not too hard and they will be playing the Angels in Los Angeles the last series of the season. They’ll have the chance here to make up ground against the team directly ahead of them.

Bottom line I predict the race will end with the Angels traveling to the Bronx to play the Yankees in the American League wild card game.

National League

NL Central

The NL Central is the closest divisional race in the National League with only four games separating the Chicago Cubs (83-66) and the Milwaukee Brewers (79-70). It’s going to be a tough uphill battle for the Brewers to challenge the Cubs over the last few weeks even though they have been playing well recently. They have gone 7-3 over their last ten games but haven’t picked up a game because the Cubs have matched their pace.

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers
Photo by Stacy Revere

The best chance for Milwaukee to catch up is next weekend when the two teams start a four game series. So far this season the Brewers lead the series 8-7, including a three game sweep earlier in September at home in Milwaukee. During that series they outscored the Cubs 20 to 3 over the three games. The Brewers can make some noise if they come out strong over the weekend, however I think the depth in Chicago’s rotation will allow them to hold onto their lead and clinch the NL Central title for the second season in a row.

NL Wildcard

Like the AL Wildcard race, the NL Wildcard is down to three serious competitors fighting for the two spots. The Arizona Diamondbacks (87-63) and the Colorado Rockies (82-68) are currently in the playoff field but Milwaukee sits only 2.5 games behind Colorado. Arizona has performed like a playoff team all season and the Diamondbacks seem poised to make their first playoff appearance since 2011. After wrapping up the season with four series against teams with losing records (at Padres, Marlins, Giants, at Royals), I predict Arizona to be hosting the wild card game.

Colorado Rockies’ Gerardo Parra reacts after striking out on a pitch from Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Jared Hughes, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, in Denver. Photo by David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

Colorado’s next nine games are also against most of those same teams with losing records (facing the Dodgers instead of the Royals), so they will need to take advantage of this stretch to strengthen their lead over Milwaukee who will be involved in a battle with the Cubs for the NL Central. The Rockies wrap up the season with a tough series against the Dodgers (96-53) but I think they will have done enough before then to clinch their spot in the wild card game against the Diamondbacks, marking what would be their first playoff berth since 2009.

Although Milwaukee has had a strong season ultimately I think they will fall short in their hunt for October and three teams from the NL West (Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies) will make the playoffs, which should make for an interesting Wild Card game and Divisional Series.

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