It's should be a great weekend for football, both in college – a record-tying seven games featuring ranked teams – and the NFL, but don't overlook Major League Baseball. There are spectacular playoff races in the American League involving the East and West Divisions and two wild card spots, and there should be plenty of clarity by Sunday night with Seattle opening a three-game series in Texas and Toronto visiting Tampa Bay.
We currently know two things for about the AL playoffs with the regular season set to end a week from Sunday: Minnesota will all but surely be the AL Central champion, and both Baltimore and Tampa Bay have clinched postseason spots. That's it.
The Orioles (95-58), who are in Cleveland this weekend, are in the catbird's seat to win the AL East with a 1.5-game lead over the second-place Rays (94-60) and holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. Baltimore is the -750 favorite. It would take a minor miracle for Tampa Bay to win the East (+475), so it will likely be the AL's top wild card team, which at least means a first-round home series against wild card team No. 2.
Which clubs will be Nos. 2 and 3 are totally up for grabs. One of Houston, Texas or Seattle will win the AL West and be the AL's second overall seed and get a first-round bye along with the East champion. The Astros are -110 favorites to win the West. They are done with the Rangers (+340 for the division) and hold the tiebreaker.
Houston (85-68), which hosts lowly Kansas City this weekend, plays three games starting Monday in Seattle (+185 for the West) but otherwise has no games remaining against divisional opponents. The Mariners (84-68) are 8-2 vs. the Astros, so the Seattle wins that tiebreaker regardless.
That leaves whichever two teams don't win the AL West and Toronto for the final two wild card spots.
The Jays (85-68) had their five-game winning streak snapped in a crucial loss at the Yankees on Thursday. Star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hasn't started each of the past two games due to knee inflammation, but he did pinch-hit Thursday. That issue might normally require an IL stint, but the Jays want him available for this stretch run and he'll most surely play Friday at the Rays. Toronto then concludes next week at home with three vs. New York and three vs. Tampa Bay, which may be locked into its postseason seeding by then and have nothing to play for.
Seattle (84-68) comes off a vital three-game sweep of Oakland but nearly saw disaster with superstar Julio Rodriguez hit in the wrist by a pitch on Wednesday. He went for X-rays but should play Friday in Arlington. The M's then host Houston for three as noted before closing next weekend at home vs. Texas. That's a very tough schedule. The Rangers are 5-1 vs. Seattle and in a good spot to win that tiebreaker.
Texas (84-68) looks for its first playoff birth since 2016 and led the AL West for much of the season before pitching injuries hit hard. Between the two Seattle series, the Rangers visit the Angels, who have already been eliminated, early next week.
Playoff tiebreakers go in this order: head-to-head record, intradivision record and then record against opponents in the same league but a different division.
That is where Toronto could be in trouble, as it is just 17-26 vs. the AL East, while Houston, Texas and Seattle are all well above .500 inside the West. The Jays win the head-to-head vs. the Astros, lose against the Rangers and are tied 3-3 with Seattle, but the Blue Jays' intradivision record will not be as good as the Mariners' no matter what happens the rest of the way, which is potentially massive.
Via DraftKings: Which team wins the AL West?
- Astros -110
- Mariners +185
- Rangers +340
Via DraftKings: Which will be the second AL wild card team (No. 5 seed)?
- Blue Jays -110
- Rangers +300
- Astros +450
- Mariners +550
Via DraftKings: Which will be the third AL wild card team (No. 6 seed)?
- Blue Jays +210
- Astros +250
- Rangers +270
- Mariners +350
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