Three weeks and two days until the final day of the regular season, and there are lots of teams that still have a shot at making a run. Let's take a quick look at where we stand.
This week brings us some huge American League matchups, especially concerning the AL Central and both wild-card spots. Here are the five biggest series for the first half of this week (meaning they start either Monday or Tuesday).
1.Tigers at White Sox
The Tigers sputter into this series having dropped three straight. But the White Sox aren't exactly playing well, either, and hold only a two-game lead over Detroit in the Central. Being a four-game series, a lot of movement could happen here, too. The last time the two clubs met, the Tigers swept the White Sox in three games. Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander in the series finale Thursday appears to be a beauty.
The Angels have won six straight and 11 of their last 12, a stretch that included a three-game sweep of these A's. Of course, those are the only games the A's have lost in recent memory. They took a nine-game winning streak into that Angels series and have since won three straight. And the A's still have the upper hand, holding the top wild-card spot. The Angels still trail the Orioles by a game, tied with the Rays, for the second wild-card spot. The playoff implications for this four-game series resonate.
3. Rays at Orioles
It's a three-gamer here, but the playoff implications in both the AL East and the wild-card race are huge. The O's have their eyes on the East title, trailing the Yankees by a game, but also have two clubs hot on their heels for the last wild-card spot. One of those two is the Rays, so this is obviously a pivotal series.
4. Pirates at Reds
It's getting hot in here. The Pirates just got swept by the Cubs and are now 72-67. While Pittsburgh still only trails St. Louis by 2 1/2 games for the final wild card, it's starting to become not about that anymore. The Pirates have that drought of not having a winning season since 1992 hanging over their heads, and it's getting tense. Now they'll face one of baseball's best teams in a three-game series.
Losing Sunday hurt, but the Brewers are still six games out of a playoff spot. If they want to be a serious playoff contender, this three-game series looms large. The Braves come in having won five straight and sporting a very comfortable cushion in the wild-card race.
Playoff chances, via coolstandings.com:
AL East champion
AL Central champion
White Sox 69.9%
AL West champion
AL Wild Card
White Sox 0.9%
NL East champion
NL Central champion
NL Wild Card