The MLB playoff races are getting more interesting by the day, and with four teams in the AL wild card picture all playing one another this weekend, things could get whacky on Saturday.
On Friday night, the Yankees outlasted the Rays and the rain to pull within one game of the second wild card spot, while the Red Sox added a game to their lead in the AL East with a 13-3 win over Toronto, and the Orioles dropped their game with the Tigers to bring Detroit into a tie for the second wild card spot.
The Yankees’ six game winning streak has made this playoff race much more interesting, and another win on Saturday with Masahiro Tanaka on the mound would bring them into a tie with the loser of the Baltimore/Detroit matchup, with both teams a game off the pace.
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To make matters even more intriguing, a fifth straight Blue Jays loss would have the O’s/Tigers winner tied with Toronto for the top spot, while the loser of that game and the Yankees would remain a game off the pace. That would leave four teams separated by one game for two playoff spots.
Falling a bit off the pace over the last three days has been the Houston Astros, who have been leapfrogged by New York and currently sit 2.5 games behind Baltimore/Detroit for that second spot. Two games left with the Chicago Cubs this weekend likely won’t help matters much, nor will the three game set at home against the Rangers from Monday through Wednesday of next week. Houston is going to have to find a way to win at least a couple of these next five to remain within shouting distance as their schedule gets easier over the final couple of weeks of the season.
The Yankees started the week with a 3.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, but have nearly quadrupled those odds by winning six in a row. Their playoff odds on FanGraphs now sit at 14.9. As the Baby Bombers have risen, the Astros have slid from 18.4 percent to 12.7 percent. Today could see some dramatic changes with the odds of the Jays (74.7), O’s (38.9) and Tigers (57.1) if the results give way to mayhem.
The Mariners and Royals are still hanging around at 3.5 and 4 games back, with Seattle currently holding a 7.1 percent chance of a postseason berth, while the defending champs are holding on at 1.8 percent.
Over in the National League, the Braves had been hot, but after losing their last four, their elimination number sits at just one in the wild card race, which makes them the most likely to be the next team to join the Minnesota Twins on the mathematically eliminated list.
The Giants (barely), Mets and Cardinals all won their games on Friday night, so San Francisco retained their half-game lead over the Mets, while the Mets retained their half-game lead over the Cards.
Even the return of Clayton Kershaw on Friday night couldn’t stop Jose Fernandez and the Marlins from taking the first game of the series in Florida. With the loss and the Giants win, the Dodgers lead in the NL West drops to four games. The two teams will play six games over the final two weeks of the season, which should either see the Dodgers take a big step towards the division title, or the Giants show that they still have some fight left.
Both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins are five games behind New York for the second wild card, but it’s the Pirates that have the slightly better odds at the MLB postseason berth, sitting at 3.0 percent compared to the Marlins’ 1.6. The Colorado Rockies are seven back, but with three against St. Louis at home, and road series against the Dodgers (four games) and Giants (three), they still have a minuscule 0.3 percent chance of making it to the wild card game.
The Giants declared they would be going with a “closer by committee” which basically boiled down to Santiago Casilla still pitching when the game mattered and Jake Lamb coming in to pinch-hit against him for the second time in just about a week–and for the second time in just about a week Lamb’s pinch hit ended with a souvenir for the fans in the bleachers. Lamb is 3-for-3 against Casilla this season, and all three hits have been home runs and all three have come in the ninth inning or later. Luckily for San Francisco, the last two have still ended in wins for the ballclub.