Only five weekends remain in the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season. Time flies and all that, eh? Anywho, let's take a look at the top five storylines for this weekend, as we've grown accustomed to doing.
1. AL West battle
After winning Thursday night, the Angels sport the best record in baseball at 80-53. Only two games behind them are their division mates, the Oakland Athletics. Given the two wild-card format, the race for this division crown is huge. The loser faces a one-game playoff, possibly against either Max Scherzer or King Felix. So after winning, say, 95 games, they could be headed home for the winter after one playoff game.
Thus, the race for the AL West crown is pretty heated. Last weekend, the A's took two of three from the Angels. With three games remaining in this series, they'll need all three to take first place back. The A's have won eight of the 13 games between the two clubs thus far, but the Angels have been the better team for the past several weeks.
2. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is in Washington state and this weekend is taking on the Washington (D.C. type) Nationals in a rare cross-country battle between the two. That's something, right? With the Mariners tied for the second wild-card spot in the AL and the Nationals leading the NL East, it's at least remotely possible this is a World Series preview, too, though Seattle's odds are admittedly a bit long.
The series begins with a beautiful pitching matchup Friday night, as Felix Hernandez takes on Jordan Zimmermann. It ends rather nicely with Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Tanner Roark, too. In between, it's Chris Young against Stephen Strasburg.
Given this, the makeup of the Mariners in particular and Safeco Park being the setting, runs should be at a premium here.
3. NL playoff preview?
All the fun (OK, most of the fun is more accurate) is out West this weekend. The NL Central-leading Brewers head to San Francisco for a three-game series against the Giants, who have a 1.5 game lead over Atlanta for the second NL wild-card spot and trail St. Louis by only a half-game for the top spot. So it's possible we'll see the Giants and Brewers in the postseason together for the first time ever.
The Brewers only lead the Cardinals by 1.5 games and are coming off two straight series losses, so they need to right the ship here. The inconsistent Giants have now won three in a row, albeit against the Rockies, who are dreadful on the road.
4. Hot Tribe visit K.C.
Remember when the Indians got red hot last September? They've won 11 of their last 16 and have climbed to within four games of the second wild card in the AL. The Royals, meantime, are still holding first place in the AL Central by 1.5 games over Detroit. This weekend, it will be the Royals hosting the Indians for a three-game series. The Royals have actually lost three of their last five and could use a series victory here.
5. Marlins' last stand?
The Marlins have hovered around the periphery of the NL wild-card race for much of the season and got real close within the past few weeks. After having lost four of their last five, though, they have fallen to two games under .500 and are now 5.5 back in the wild card. Could a three-game series in Atlanta bury them? It's possible.
This is big for the Braves, too. They are facing a club that is reeling while themselves being only 1.5 games behind the Giants for the last NL playoff spot. They need to grab this series.