Postseason begins October 6. There is one week of baseball left to be played in the 2010 regular season and there are still plenty of races to watch. Two more teams — the Phillies and Rangers — clinched division titles playoff spots and join the Twins as the only three teams completely safe at this point.
The Rays and Yankees are still fighting over the American League East, while the Padres, Rockies and Braves are all jockeying for the wild-card spot – along with the San Francisco Giants who currently lead the NL West standings by one game. These races have the potential to last until the final day of the season and are very likely to do so. Tampa and New York are at a dead heat in the AL East heading into the final week but the “loser” will be the AL wild-card team. Boston is 5-1/2 games back and is the only other mathematical wildcard possibility.
Here’s a look at where things stand on the last Monday of the regular season:
Tampa Bay Rays | 93-63 | First in AL East
Current Situation: The Rays are incredibly close to clinching their second postseason invitation ever, and it could happen literally any day this week. If Tampa Bay wins or the Red Sox (5-1/2 games back) lose, the Rays earn, at least, a wild-card berth. With seven games to go in the season, the Rays and Yankees are tied in the division but the Rays have a much more favorable schedule than New York.
Remaining Games: Baltimore (2), @Kansas City (4)
The Next Series: Tampa Bay has 2 more games with Baltimore in their final homestand for the Rays this season. Fans (that is, the hundred or so who show up) will get to see at least two-thirds of the playoff rotation as Wade Davis and David Price pitch on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, with Jeff Niemann throwing on Wednesday.
What Needs to Happen: As it stands right now, the Rays are tied for the best record in the American League. If they lose fewer games than the Yankees moving forward, they will win the division. If they lose fewer than Minnesota, Tampa will have home-field advantage through the American League Championship Series.
New York Yankees | 93-63 | Tied First in AL East
Current Situation: The Yankees split a four-game series with the Rays and lost two of three to the Red Sox last weekend to fall a half-game behind in the division. New York isn’t falling apart; the Yankees are strategically resting players to have a healthier roster come playoff time. As the Bronx Bombers heal, they also face a decision about setting their playoff rotation. After CC Sabathia, there are a number of question marks. Is Phil Hughes No. 2 in the rotation material, and if so, where does New York look after Sabathia and Hughes?
Remaining Games: Toronto (3), @Boston(3)
The Next Series: Some of those rotation questions may be answered over the next three games as New York sends A.J. Burnett, Sabathia and Andy Pettitte to face the Blue Jays. Sabathia is set in stone, but Burnett has a 1-2 record and a 4.33 ERA over the last month and Pettitte, while pitching wonderfully early in the season, has given up seven earned runs in two starts since returning from the disabled list.
What Needs to Happen: The Yankees and Tampa each have six games left on the schedule. They are tied with 93 wins right now, which means that if the Yankees win one more game than the Rays, they’ll take the division = otherwise it’s the wild-card. To earn home-field advantage, New York must remain one game ahead of Minnesota, which is where they stand now.
Minnesota Twins | 92-63 | 1st in AL Central
Current Situation: Minnesota was swept by the Detroit Tigers this past weekend, but since the Twins have already clinched the division the team has spent more time worrying about health than winning games. There are doubts that first baseman Justin Morneau will be ready by the beginning of the playoffs, but All-Star catcher Joe Mauer may return as early as Monday.
Remaining Games: @Kansas City (3), Toronto (4)
The Next Series: The Twins will send Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker to the mound as they travel to Kansas City for three games. Slowey and Baker are in interesting situations where one might be asked to pitch in the bullpen during the playoffs. The Twins have clinched and they are facing lowly Kansas City, but for these two hurlers, their next starts are of great importance.
What Needs to Happen: The only thing Minnesota is fighting for is home-field advantage. They have to win two more games than New York and Tampa Bay this week to earn that honor.
Texas Rangers | 87-68 | 1st in AL West
Current Situation: Texas swept Oakland last weekend and now has seven games remaining before the playoffs start. The Rangers have clinched their division, but the only way to have home-field advantage is for them to win out while Minnesota, New York and Tampa Bay lose all of their remaining games. To be honest, Minnesota can win once in this scenario, but are we really taking it seriously?
Remaining Games: Seattle (3), Los Angeles Angels (4)
The Next Series: The Rangers are playing well right now and get to play their next three games against a Seattle team they have beaten 11 of 16 times this season. They’ll send C.J. Wilson, Scott Feldman and Tommy Hunter to the mound with Feldman having the unlucky spot in the rotation having to face Felix Hernandez.
What Needs to Happen: Get healthy and stay hot — that’s the only thing Texas needs to do. I’ve already shared their minuscule chances of securing home-field advantage. There’s no need to revisit pure fiction.
Philadelphia Phillies | 93-63 | 1st in NL East
Current Situation: There is only one thing that could be better than looking forward to a stacked playoff rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt and a lineup featuring Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino — the return of Jimmy Rollins. Rollins entered Sunday’s game as a pinch-hitter and could spend the next week getting reacquainted to big-league pitching.
Remaining Games: @Washington (2), @Atlanta (3)
The Next Series: The Phillies have won 11 of 16 games against Washington (thanks to a Roy Halladay 8-0 clincher shutout last night)this season and send Oswalt and Joe Blanton to the hill in the nation’s capital. With the division in hand, most eyes will be watching Rollins as he tries to get back up to speed.
What Needs to Happen: Philadelphia’s magic number is four – not to win the division rather this is their fourth straight NL East flag. First time since Atlanta’s 14-year run for an NL team and it could be the third NL team in history to hit the World Series three years running/ The Phils’ have a stranglehold on home-field advantage throughout the postseason – thanks to their record and the NL All-Star Game victory.
Current Situation: The Braves have lost five of their last six games and dropped two of three in Washington. They get to come home for their remaining six games of the season and no one has a better home record than Atlanta. The Braves are now mired in the Wildcard quagmire along with San Diego, San Francisco, Colorado and (technically) St. Louis. Atlanta will need to clean up their pitching staff to claw their way into the playoffs.
Remaining Games: Florida (3), Philadelphia (3)
What Needs to Happen: Let’s forget about catching Philadelphia. The Braves remaining three games against Philadelphia could help their pride after having been swept but nothing more. It’s possible, but only slightly that Atlanta even wants to make the postseason without Chipper Jones, without a solid pitching staff and without any real bench depth. The Braves are a half-game back in the wild-card standings to San Diego, which has one more game on the schedule than Atlanta. Atlanta has to win one more game than San Diego over the next week to win the wild card.
Current Situation: Cincinnati’s magic number is one. Any Reds win or St. Louis loss means that Cincinnati wins the division and is playoff-bound. The Reds are a little beat up now so watch for them to get their regulars some rest once the division is wrapped up.
Remaining Games: Houston (3), Milwaukee (3)
The Next Series: Houston is playing very well right now, so the Reds will have to work to earn a victory. But having to take just one game shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. They will send Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo to the mound.
What Needs to Happen: All the Reds have to do is win one game to head to the playoffs. After that, they are in a dogfight for the second-best record in the National League. Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Francisco, San Diego or Colorado could all come away with that honor.
Current Situation: The Giants took two of three games from Colorado last weekend and took control of their division as well. The hold a half-game lead over San Diego and a 4 1/2-game lead over Colorado.
Remaining Games: Arizona (3), San Diego (3)
The Next Series: Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum will take the mound in a three-game home series against Arizona starting on Tuesday. This season the Giants are 10-5 against the Diamondbacks.
What Needs to Happen: The Giants are tied with San Diego in the loss column with 68 and have one fewer game to play. If they lose one fewer game than San Diego and hold off Colorado, which is 4 1/2 games behind, they’ll win the division.
Current Situation: After winning two of three games against the visiting Reds last weekend, San Diego finds itself a half-game behind San Francisco in the division. The Padres play seven games over the next seven days — three against San Francisco — and must find a way to pass the Giants or hold off the Braves, who are a half-game behind in the wild-card race.
Remaining Games: Chicago Cubs (4), San Francisco (3)
The Next Series: Chicago is 19-11 over its last 30 games after floundering for most of the season. The fact that the Cubs are hot right when San Diego needs a bunch of wins is no fun for Padres fans. San Diego will host Chicago for four games and send Tim Stauffer, Mat Latos, Chris Young and Jon Garland to the mound.
What Needs to Happen: Because San Diego holds an insurmountable 10-5 head-to-head lead over San Francisco this year, all it has to do is tie for first to win the division. That means as long as the Padres lose fewer, or the same amount of games, as San Francisco over the next week, they win the division. If San Francisco wins the division, the Padres must win one more game than Atlanta to hold onto the wild-card spot.
Current Situation: At 4 1/2 games out of the division and four games out of the wild-card race with seven games to play, the Rockies need tons and tons of help to make the playoffs. As soon as either the Braves or the Padres win their fourth game over the next week — and it’s four rather than three because Colorado holds tiebreaker advantages over both teams — Colorado’s season is over.
Remaining Games: Los Angeles Dodgers (3), St. Louis (4)
The Next Series: Colorado has to start the trek with three games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team it is only 7-8 against this season. The Rockies will send Ubaldo Jimenez, Jeff Francis and Jhoulys Chacin to the mound, starting on Monday.
What Needs to Happen: As mentioned earlier, if either the Braves or Padres win four games this week, the Rockies are done. But it’s not just what other teams do. The Rockies need to win at least four of their next seven games, and that’s if Atlanta and San Diego lose all their remaining games. For each game the Braves or Padres win, the Rockies must win one more on top of the four they are behind.
We’ll know for sure in a week. Until then… PLAY BALL!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org