MLB standings, playoff picture update: AL West and second wild card still up for grabs

The 2018 MLB regular season ends Sunday, Sept. 30, and in exactly six weeks, the National League Wild Card Game will be played. There are still plenty of postseason races that have to be decided between now and then.

With that in mind, here is an update on the current American League postseason picture. Here is the SportsLine Projection System and here is what the AL postseason field would look like if the season ended today ():

Make sure to check out SportsLine's daily pick sheet for insight about every game.

AL East leader: Red Sox (88-38)

  • Games remaining: 36 (20 Home, 16 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .518
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 100.0 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 24.3 percent

The Red Sox have baseball's best record and a healthy nine-game lead over the second place Yankees. The two teams do have six head-to-head games remaining, so if the Yankees can make up some ground in the interim, they would still have a shot at the division title. Realistically, the Red Sox have this one in the bag. It would take a monumental collapse for Boston to lose the AL East title these next six weeks.

AL Central leader: Indians (72-52)

  • Games remaining: 38 (18 Home, 20 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .453  
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 100.0 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 12.7 percent

The Indians have baseball's largest division lead at 12 games. They are the only team with a winning record in the AL Central and, because of that, they have baseball's easiest schedule according to their remaining opponent's winning percentage. A huge division lead combined with a cupcake schedule means the Indians can rest easy the rest of the season. Stay healthy and prep for the postseason. That's all that's left to do in Cleveland.

AL West leader: Astros (75-50) and Athletics (75-50)

  • Games remaining: 37 (19 Home, 18 Away for Astros; 18 Home, 19 Away for A's)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .484 for Astros; .495 for A's 
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 94.9 percent for Astros; 84.9 percent for A's
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 9.8 percent for Astros; 2.4 percent for A's

Thanks to a molten-hot streak that has seen then win 41 of their past 55 games, the A's have erased what was once an 11 1/2 game deficit in the AL West to tie the Astros. The two teams only have one head-to-head series remaining -- they'll play three games in Houston from August 27-29 -- so this division race will largely be decided with games against other teams. The 'Stros have a slightly easier schedule the rest of the way and they'll close out their regular season with four games against the lowly Orioles, which could be significant.

If the season ended today, the Astros and Athletics would play a Game 163 tiebreaker to determine the AL West champion. The Astros would have home field advantage in the tiebreaker game because they have the better head-to-head record (10-6). The winner of Game 163 wins the division and the loser gets the second wild card. And yes, they would play a Game 163 even though both teams are in postseason position. There's a big advantage to winning the division, so MLB makes them play a tiebreaker game rather than awarding the division title based on head-to-head record or something like that.

AL wild card leader: Yankees (78-46)

  • Games remaining: 38 (16 Home, 22 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .469
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 99.9 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 8.2 percent

The Yankees have baseball's second best record and they're on pace for 102 wins, yet they'll almost certainly have to settle for playing in the Wild Card Game. The Red Sox have been historically great and own a nine-game lead in the AL East. The Yankees have a 3 1/2 game over the Astros and A's for the top wild-card spot and a seven-game lead over the Mariners for a wild-card spot in general, so even though the AL East race is pretty much over, New York's postseason spot is relatively secure with six weeks to play. It also helps that they have baseball's second easiest remaining schedule.

AL wild card runner-up: Astros (75-50) and Athletics (75-50)

  • Games remaining: 37 (19 Home, 18 Away for Astros; 18 Home, 19 Away for A's)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .484 for Astros; .495 for A's 
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 94.9 percent for Astros; 84.9 percent for A's
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 9.8 percent for Astros; 2.4 percent for A's

Again, if the season ended today, the Astros and A's would play a Game 163 tiebreaker in Houston. Winner gets the AL West title and the loser settles for the second wild-card spot. Both clubs are 3 1/2 games up on the Mariners for that second wild-card spot. Needless to say, both the Astros and Athletics want to nail down the division title. Anything can happen in one game, but I'm not sure anyone wants to go to Yankee Stadium for a winner-take-all Wild Card Game.

Teams on the outside looking in

  • Mariners: 72-54 (20.2 percent playoff odds per SportsLine)

That's it. Really. The Mariners are 3 1/2 games back of the second wild card and the next closest team is the Rays. Tampa Bay is 64-61 and 11 games back of that second wild card. The AL postseason picture boils down to this: Who wins the AL West? And can the team that loses the AL West hold off the Mariners for the second wild card ? The AL East and AL Central races are essentially over and the Yankees have a firm grasp on the top wild-card spot.

Teams eliminated

  • Orioles: 37-88

Sunday's loss officially eliminated the Orioles from postseason contention. They have 37 games remaining and a 37-game winning streak would put them at 74-88 for the season. The top five teams in the AL all have at least 75 wins, so yep, the Orioles are the eliminated. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the O's set a new record for earliest elimination since the Divisional Era began in 1969. Ouch.

The Royals (38-87) will be the next AL team eliminated from postseason contention. Their elimination number in the wild card race is one, meaning Kansas City will be eliminated from wild card contention with their next loss or the next wins by both the Astros and A's. Their elimination number in the AL Central is four. Any combination of Royals losses and Indians wins totaling four the rest of the season knocks the Royals out of the division race.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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