MLB playoff race watch: Royals can clinch first ever AL Central title

The 2015 Major League Baseball season has just 11 days remaining before the real fun begins for 10 fortunate teams -- unless we get some one-game playoff games to determine the official playoff teams, which is incredible fun in and of itself.

As such, let's go through each race and take a look at where it stands. The playoff chances are via Fangraphs.com calculations and the "magic number" is the combined number of wins by the team ahead and losses by the team behind before a clinch can happen.

Thursday's slate of games

AL East

After Wednesday's win, the Blue Jays now have a 3 1/2-game lead and 94.3 percent chance to win the division. Their magic number over the Yankees (5.7 percent) is eight. The Blue Jays don't play Thursday, but the Yankees host Chris Sale and the White Sox.

AL Central

The Kansas City Royals have never won the AL Central. The last time they won a division was in 1985, when there was no Central and they played in the AL West. Thanks in part to Lorenzo Cain's walk-off knock Wednesday night, the Royals' magic number is now down to two games. Johnny Cueto is on the hill Thursday, looking to build off his impressive outing last time out while the second-place Twins host the Indians.

Should the Royals win and Twins lose, the Royals clinch the AL Central.

Lorenzo Cain's walk-off winner on Wednesday set the Royals up nicely.
Lorenzo Cain's walk-off winner on Wednesday set the Royals up nicely. (USATSI)

If that doesn't happen, this thing is still over (the Royals have a 10-game lead and 100 percent chance of winning the division). It's just that it would probably be nice to get it taken care of as soon as possible.

AL West

We have three teams in the race here.

Texas Rangers, --, 81.4 percent
Houston Astros, 3 GB, 15.1 percent
LA Angels, 4.5 GB, 3.5 percent

The Rangers' magic number over the Angels is seven and it's eight over the Astros. And, actually, the Mariners still haven't been officially eliminated (magic number: 3).

The Rangers visit the A's for a matinee Thursday while the Astros and Angels are off. Friday the fun beings, though: The Rangers visit Houston while the Angels face King Felix.

AL wild card

Yankees, +4, 93.9 percent
Astros, --, 53.4 percent
Twins, 1 GB, 14.5 percent
Angels, 1.5 GB, 17.2 percent
Orioles, 4 GB, 0.4 percent
Indians, 4.5 GB, 0.9 percent
Mariners, 5.5 GB, 0.2 percent
Rays, 5.5 GB, 0 percent

We aren't going to get into magic numbers yet, because it's not real close. There's jockeying to be done before that. In fact, the only AL team technically eliminated is the A's.

The only real big game here Thursday is the Indians at Twins. The Indians desperately need it to keep their fading hopes on life support while the Twins can creep to within a half-game of the struggling Astros.

NL East

The Mets have lost two in a row, but they've had help as the Nationals have also lost two straight. So this remains a 6 1/2-game lead for the Mets with a magic number of five. That sounds like a tall order with so few games remaining and it is, as the odds show the Mets with a 98.9 percent chance of taking it.

The Mets visit Cincinnati while the Nationals look to avoid a sweep at home at the hands of the Orioles.

NL Central

After Wednesday, we can safely bury the Cubs here. It's a seven-game deficit with 10 to play for them and there's a team in between. They'll be playing in the wild-card game.

The Cardinals enter Thursday with a four-game lead over the Pirates and 94.3 percent chance to win the division. Their magic number is seven.

The Pirates have their series finale in Colorado while the Cardinals host the Brewers on Thursday. Good news for the Cardinals: The Pirates have to deal with the Cubs this weekend while they are still playing the Brewers.

Potentially good news for the Pirates: They get a head-to-head shot at St. Louis next Monday-Wednesday.

NL West

The Dodgers have a seven-game lead over the Giants with 11 to play and a magic number of five. The chances of winning the division? 99.9 percent. We can probably call this thing, despite a head-to-head four-game series next week.

The Dodgers host the Diamondbacks and have Clayton Kershaw on the hill Thursday while the Giants throw Madison Bumgarner in San Diego.

NL wild card

The top spot is clinched for one of the NL Central teams. The Cardinals and Pirates have both clinched a playoff berth and the only other team that could get to the top spot is the Cubs.

As for the second spot, the Cubs have a 9 1/2-game lead over the Giants and 10 1/2 over the Nationals. The magic number over the Nats is one and over the Giants is two

The Cubs don't play Thursday, but could eliminate the Nationals as early as Thursday and Giants as soon as Friday. The playoff odds for this wild card show 100 percent for every Central team (meaning the two who don't win the division) and zero percent for everyone else.

The NL wild-card game will feature two Central teams. It's just a matter of who and where, with the overwhelming favorite being Cubs at Pirates.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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