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Eye On Playoff Races: Braves on the brink

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Is today the day the Braves lock up the NL East? (USATSI)
Is today the day the Braves lock up the NL East? (USATSI)

More MLB: Scoreboard | Standings | Probable Pitchers | Sortable Stats | Odds

Another day, another slate of games brimming with playoff implications. The Dodgers and Red Sox are in, and the Braves are on the brink of punching their ticket to the postseason.

So let's see where things stand right now.

If the playoffs started today...

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

NL wild-card: Reds at Pirates
NLDS1: NL wild-card winner at Braves
NLDS2: Dodgers at Cardinals

Current playoff odds, via FanGraphs

AL
Red Sox - IN
Athletics - 100%
Tigers - 100%
Rangers - 66.7%
Rays - 65.2%
Indians - 53.8%
Orioles - 8.8%
Royals - 3.5%
Yankees - 2.0%

NL
Dodgers - IN
Braves - 100%
Cardinals - 99.9%
Pirates - 99.8%
Reds - 99%
Nationals - 1.4%

Friday's big matchups

Braves at Cubs, 2:20 pm ET (Preview)
Paul Maholm (4.35) vs. Scott Baker (0.82). Baker, who's back after recovering from Tommy John surgery, has been lights out in his first two starts of season. Maholm, meantime, is lugging around a 5.86 road ERA this season. As for Dan Uggla, he's batting just .163/.333/.233 since undergoing corrective eye surgery.

Reds at Pirates, 7:05 pm ET (Preview)
Mat Latos (3.14) vs. Francisco Liriano (2.92). Your game of the day, with two aces involved, to boot. The Reds and Pirates are all but assured of playoff berths, but they're both hot on the trail of the Cardinals for the NL Central lead. Failing that, they're sorting out who would host the wild-card game. Potentially, the stakes are high on that front, as each team has been much, much better at home than on the road this season. Something to monitor: Liriano has a 6.00 ERA across three September starts.

Astros at Indians, 7:05 pm ET (Preview)
Brett Oberholtzer (2.98) vs. Zach McCallister (3.96). The Tribe's notionally easy slate of games to close out the season continues apace. Oberholtzer has thrived across eight starts this season thanks to exacting control (just nine unintentional walks in 60 1/3 innings). With that said, the Cleveland offense has been perhaps baseball's best against lefties this season, and Oberholtzer has surely been a bit lucky to date, what with his BABIP of .266 in front of a very bad Houston defense.

Giants at Yankees, 7:05 pm ET (Preview)
Tim Lincecum (4.40) vs. CC Sabathia (4.90). The Yankees versus the defending champs with Lincecum and Sabathia on the bump? It's hard to believe this game is barely meaningful. Yet the Yankees, as noted above, are clinging to vanishingly slim playoff hopes. They do play six of their final nine against losing teams (a three-game set against the Rays breaks up series against the Giants and Astros), but they're behind four teams for the final wild-card berth.

Orioles at Rays, 7:10 pm ET (Preview)
Jason Hammel (5.12) vs. David Price (3.42). This one kicks off a huge four-game set at the Trop. Presently, the Rays are in wild-card position, but the O's, who just took two out of three in Boston, are just two games back. The preference, of course, is to have an easy remaining schedule, which, as mentioned, is the case with the Indians, but there's also something to be said for getting four cracks at one of the teams ahead of you in the standings. Of note: Hammel has only one quality start in the second half.

Cardinals at Brewers, 8:10 pm ET (Preview)
Shelby Miller (3.01) vs. Johnny Hellweg (8.31). At this writing, the Cardinals are only one game up on the Pirates in the NL Central and just two games up on the Reds. The Cards will surely be hoping for a crippling battle of attrition in Pittsburgh (see above), while they get three versus a Brewers team against which they're 12-4 this season. Needless to say, the Hellweg draw would seem to be a fortunate one for St. Louis.

Rangers at Royals, 8:10 pm ET (Preview)
Martin Perez (3.64) vs. Ervin Santana (3.23). Besides the very obvious wild-card implications, this series also marks the return of Rangers reliever Joakim Soria to Kansas City, where he was a dominating closer for much of his career. Of note: The Rangers haven't lost a road series to the Royals since 2007.

Friday's possible clinchers

- Red Sox clinch the AL East with win over Blue Jays or Rays loss to Orioles.
- Braves clinch NL East with win over Cubs and Nationals loss to Marlins.
- Braves clinch share of NL East with loss to Cubs and Nationals loss to Marlins.
- Cardinals clinch share of wild card with win over Brewers and Nationals loss to Marlins.

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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