By Sam Soergel
It’s the last weekend of the MLB regular season, and there are still a few postseason tickets that need to be punched; the AL West crown and the second AL Wild Card spot are still up for grabs. With only three games left in the regular season, it’s crunch time. Here’s what’s going on in the MLB this weekend.
This week, Toronto clinched their first AL East title since 1993. This weekend, the Blue Jays head to Tampa to play the Rays, and the Yankees go to Baltimore to play the Orioles. Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada are the probables for Toronto on Friday and Saturday. The Jays have yet to announce a starter for Sunday’s game. Tampa Bay will use Erasmo Ramirez, Chris Archer, and Matt Moore. Right now, Toronto is tied with Kansas City for the best record in the AL, which grants home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the teams finish the season with the same record, Toronto would get home field because they own the tiebreaker with the Royals.
The 92-67 Royals ran away with the division and are just trying to play for home field advantage at this point. This weekend, they play the Twins in Minnesota in what is an important series for the Twins, who sit only one game behind the Astros for the second Wild Card. Chris Young pitches Friday for the Royals. Last outing, he went five innings and didn’t allow a hit. He’ll go against Ervin Santana. Santana struggled for most of August, but has won his last 5. Saturday’s matchup pits Yordano Ventura against Tommy Milone. Johnny Cueto will pitch against a Twins starter who has not been announced yet on Sunday.
The Rangers clinched a playoff spot with a win on Thursday, but they haven’t won the West yet. One win, or a loss by the Astros, seals the division for the Rangers. This weekend, they will play in Anaheim. The Angels, like the Twins, sit one game behind Houston in the Wild Card race. Martin Perez, Colby Lewis, and Cole Hamels are slated to pitch this weekend, but if the division is wrapped up early, Texas could possibly save their pitchers for the playoffs and go with somebody other than Lewis or Hamels.
AL WILD CARD
The Yankees’ 10,000th franchise win also clinched a Wild Card spot for them, but whether they will host the game or be the second Wild Card will be decided this weekend. New York has a three game lead over the current second Wild Card, Houston, with three games left, so it is looking more and more like there will be playoff baseball at Yankee Stadium for the first time since 2012. This weekend, the Yanks are in Baltimore. Joe Girardi has not announced the rotation yet, and Baltimore has only decided that Wei-Yin Chen will pitch Friday.
The race for the second Wild Card will likely come down to the final day of the season. The Astros currently occupy that spot, but both the Angels and the Twins sit only one game back. Houston plays in Arizona this weekend. It looks like they have an easier task than the two teams chasing them. Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers are the probables for Houston. They’ll face Rubby De La Rosa, Jeremy Hellickson, and Jhoulys Chacin will pitch for Arizona. The Astros have the pitching advantage in every matchup. As long as they win, they will keep that playoff spot, but lose even one game, and things could get crazy.
The Mets locked up the East this week. They are still trying to lock up home field advantage for the NLDS against Los Angeles. They have identical records right now, and New York has the tiebreaker. They host Washington this weekend. It looks like Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz will pitch against Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, and Tanner Roark. Slugger Yoenis Cesepedes was hit by a pitch on the hand this week, but the x-rays luckily came back negative.
It took 100 wins for the Cardinals to win the Central. That’s good enough for the best record in baseball, and home field in the NLDS and NLCS. They clinched this week against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. This weekend, St. Louis plays the Braves in Atlanta. Jaime Garcia will face Julio Teheran on Friday. On Saturday, Shelby Miller faces his former teammates and John Lackey. Lance Lynn will go against Matt Wisler on Sunday.
The Dodgers locked up the West this week while playing the Giants, the team that was chasing them, and the Giants are now officially out of the playoffs. Los Angeles welcomes San Diego this weekend. Fighting for home field advantage for the NLDS, Alex Wood and aces Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw will pitch for the Dodgers. The Padres will throw Casey Kelly, Robbie Erlin, and James Shields.
NL WILD CARD
Pittsburgh and Chicago will play each other on Wednesday in the NL Wild Card game, but where that game takes place is still up in the air. Pittsburgh’s magic number for the right to host that game is two. Two Pirates wins, two Cubs losses, or a combination of the two will get that game at PNC Park. It looks like Gerrit Cole will pitch for the Pirates, a tough task for Cubs hitters. However, an even tougher task awaits the Bucs: Jake Arrieta. Arrieta held Pittsburgh to one hit last Sunday, and to top it all off, he hit a home run. While he may seem unbeatable, he has six losses, and in a one game playoff, anything can happen.
For some teams, the last three games of the season mean absolutely nothing. For others, they mean absolutely everything. One thing is for sure: by Sunday night, the postseason picture will be officially set.