The Wild Card race is still hot and heavy in the American League, and the Minnesota Twins padded their lead despite an average week of baseball.
It was a relatively quiet week for the teams involved in the Wild Card races in both leagues. The top two teams remained the same in the AL and NL, with some minor shuffling further down the standings. Those teams chasing are running out of time, and it’s really time to be desperate.
In the American League, the Twins have continued to see their playoff odds climb exponentially. They are now up to nearly 55 percent according to Fangraphs playoff odds projections. A weak schedule for the rest of the year should send them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Of the teams chasing the Twins, Fangraphs gives the Los Angels Angels the best chance to claim the AL’s final playoff spot. Los Angeles may have a better overall roster than Minnesota, but it’s hard to make up ground with the Twins playing the weak sisters of the AL Central for the rest of the year.
Over in the NL, the Wild Card races do not appear to offer much intrigue. The Colorado Rockies have figured things out after ceding ground to the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals last week. Their best shot at making the playoffs is now taking down the Chicago Cubs. The Arizona Diamondbacks hold a comfortable grip on the top Wild Card in the NL, and their potential matchup with the Rockies in the one-game playoff could produce some real fireworks.
American League Division Leaders
Boston Red Sox (82-62, .569)
The Red Sox bounced back nicely after losing three of four to the New York Yankees by winning back-to-back home series against Toronto and Tampa Bay. Their lead in the AL East is up to four games, which feels fairly comfortable at this point of the season. While they cannot let up too much, one more solid week could give them enough of a lead to begin resting key starters and gearing up for October.
Boston will not enter the playoffs this season with a massive target on their backs like last season. That may help, especially with key contributors like Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Xander Bogaerts a year older.
Cleveland Indians (89-56, .614)
The Indians are in the middle of what could be the most dominant stretch in MLB history. Over the past 20 games, they have won every time and have outscored their opponents by over 100 runs. When the Oakland A’s won 20 straight in 2002, there was still some intrigue sprinkled in. The Indians have just been suffocating teams.
Corey Kluber should the AL Cy Young all but locked up and Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor both have a case for AL MVP. It’s not their award to win, but they will both get votes. The 20-game streak has allowed the Indians to take over from Houston for best record in the American League and they show no signs of slowing down soon.
Houston Astros (87-57, .604)
The Astros may still be dealing with the effects of Hurricane Harvey more than they would care to let on. Getting swept by the Athletics is a cause for concern, especially with how the pitching staff was battered around by a mediocre team.
One player the Astros should have no worries about is Justin Verlander. He appears poised and ready to lead the rotation into the postseason with two dominant outings since being acquired from the Detroit Tigers. The big question remains, however, whether or not Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers can get the job done in October.