Eye On Playoff Races: The wild, wild AL wild card

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

The Rays and Rangers begin a huge series on Monday. (USATSI)
The Rays and Rangers begin a huge series on Monday. (USATSI)

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With barely more than two weeks to go in the regular season, we still have a number of playoff berths up for grabs, and that's to say nothing of seeding. So let's kick off our daily look at the state of those various and sundry postseason races. It is, after all, the MLB stretch drive, and that means things change every day.

If the playoffs started today ...

AL wild card: Rays at Rangers
ALDS1: AL wild-card winner at Red Sox
ALDS2: Tigers at Athletics

NL Central one-game tiebreaker: Cardinals at Pirates
NL wild card: Reds at loser of Cardinals/Pirates
NLDS1: NL wild-card winner at Braves
NLDS2: Dodgers at Cardinals/Pirates

Current playoff odds, via FanGraphs

AL
Red Sox - 100%
Athletics - 100%
Tigers - 100%
Rays - 61.8%
Rangers - 59.3%
Indians - 58.4%
Yankees - 9.2%
Royals - 6.1%
Orioles - 5.1%

NL
Braves - 100%
Pirates - 100%
Cardinals - 100%
Dodgers - 100%
Reds - 97.5%
Nationals - 2.5%

Monday's big matchups

Braves at Nationals, 7:05 pm ET (Preview)
Mike Minor (3.15) vs. Dan Haren (5.02). The Nationals aren't going to win the NL East, but they still have a puncher's chance at the second NL wild-card berth (they'll enter play Monday 4 1/2 games back of the Reds). The Braves, meanwhile, have a two-game lead over the Pirates and Cardinals for top seed in the NL bracket. That's important, of course, as the top seed gets to play the wild-card winner, who won't be able to line up their NLDS rotation properly as a result of having to go all out in the one-game playoff.

Rangers at Rays, 7:10 pm ET (Preview)
Matt Garza (3.79) vs. Alex Cobb (3.08). As noted above, the Rangers and Rays are locked in a tie atop the AL wild-card standings. The problem for each team is that the Indians are just a half-game out and have a significantly easier schedule the rest of the way. So in essence, this four-game series could amount to a showdown for the second berth.

Indians at Royals, 8:10 pm ET (Preview)
Scott Kazmir (4.24) vs. James Shields (3.38). Consider this the last, best chance for the Royals. They're just 3 1/2 games out of wild-card position, but they're also behind four teams -- including the Indians -- for the second bid. The Indians, meanwhile, get to play their final 10 regular-season games against the Astros, White Sox and Twins after they leave KC.

Dodgers at Diamondbacks, 9:40 pm ET (Preview)
As implied above, the D-backs have almost no shot at making the postseason (they're eight games out of the second wild-card slot), but if they're to mount a September miracle, then it begins Monday night against the Dodgers. The Dodgers' magic number is four entering play on Monday, so if they take just two of four in the desert then they clinch the NL West title. On the downside, they come into this series having just dropped three of four at home to the lowly Giants.

2013 postseason schedule

NL Wild Card Game: Oct. 1
AL Wild Card Game: Oct. 2
NL Division Series begin: Oct. 3
AL Division Series begin: Oct. 4
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 11
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 12
World Series begins: Oct. 23

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