MLB standings, playoff picture update: A's closing in on Yankees for top wild-card spot in the AL

The 2018 MLB regular season ends Sunday, Sept. 30, meaning the postseason is now only three weeks away. 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 (Click here for the National League playoff picture):

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

AL East leader: Red Sox (98-46)

  • Games remaining: 18 (12 Home, 6 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .506
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 100.0 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 20.4 percent

Even with a little stumble against the Astros over the weekend, the Red Sox still have a comfortable 8 1/2-game lead in the AL East with 18 games remaining. The Yankees have to feel like they missed a big opportunity here. Boston has cooled down a bit -- they are 10-10 n their last 20 games -- but during that time the Yankees gained only two games in the standings while playing teams like the Blue Jays, Marlins, Orioles, Tigers, and White Sox. That was it. That was New York's chance to make the AL East a race. Instead, they went 12-8 against mostly bad teams and failed to make a meaningful dent in the division race. Six remaining head-to-head games between the Red Sox and Yankees mean the AL East title isn't in the bag quite yet for the BoSox.

AL Central leader: Indians (81-62)

  • Games remaining: 19 (9 Home, 10 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .450
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 100.0 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 11.3 percent

The AL Central race is over. Not officially yet, but it's over. The Indians have a 15 1/2-game lead over the second place Twins and not one of the other four AL Central teams have a winning record. Cleveland's magic number to clinch the division title is five. Could happen as soon as Wednesday. 

AL West leader: Astros (89-54)

  • Games remaining: 19 (9 Home, 10 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .448
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 100.0 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 13.2 percent

As good as the Astros are -- and they are very, very good -- they are having a devil of a time shaking the Athletics. Houston is 7-1 in their last eight games and they gained zero ground in the standings. For the A's , the 2 1/2-game deficit with 19 games to play is hardly insurmountable. The problem for the Athletics is these two teams don't play again this season. They're going to need help from other teams to catch the Astros, and 'Stros have the second easiest remaining schedule in baseball based on opponent's winning percentage. In fact, the Astros close out the season with four games with the Orioles. That's about as good a safety cushion as the schedule could possibly provide.

AL wild card leader: Yankees (89-54)

  • Games remaining: 19 (9 Home, 10 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .504
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 99.9 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 8.7 percent

The Yankees are more or less locked into a postseason spot at this point. They took two of three from the Mariners over the weekend and now have a 10-game lead over Seattle for a wild-card spot. The more pressing issue for the Yankees is home-field advantage in that Wild Card Game. They're only 2 1/2 games up on Oakland. Look at the home/road splits:

Yankees at home: 48-24 (.667) and plus-87 run differential
Yankees on road: 41-30 (.577) and plus-63 run differential

Athletics at home: 46-29 (.613) and plus-35 run differential
Athletics on road: 41-28 (.594) and plus-66 run differential

The Yankees went to Oakland last week and dropped two of three, and the marine layer in the Bay Area knocked down several fly balls what would've been home runs at hitter friendly Yankee Stadium. Few teams in baseball are as well-built for their ballpark as the Yankees. They want that winner-take-all Wild Card Game to be played in the Bronx and they have to hold off the A's for 19 more games.

It should be noted the Yankees currently hold the home-field advantage tiebreaker over the A's. The two teams split their season series 3-3. The next tiebreaker is intra-division record. The Yankees are 34-26 (.567) against the AL East while the A's are 33-34 against the AL West (.493). Those records can and will change before the end of the season, but, right now, the Yankees have a comfortable lead for the tiebreaker. That means the A's will need to win the top wild-card spot outright to get home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game. The Yankees only have to settle for a tie with the A's to get home-field advantage.

AL wild card runner-up: Athletics (87-57)

  • Games remaining: 18 (6 Home, 12 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .474
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 98.0 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 2.0 percent

With 18 games to play, the A's are 7 1/2 games up on the Mariners for the second wild-card spot, so they're in great shape to return to the postseason for the first time since 2014. They're also only 2 1/2 games behind both the Astros (for the AL West lead) and the Yankees (for the top wild-card spot). The Yankees seem more catchable than the Astros at this point. Houston has played very well lately and has an easy schedule the rest of the way. The Yankees have played not so well lately and have a tougher remaining schedule. Oakland is essentially a lock for the postseason at this point. The only question is whether they'll win the division, host the Wild Card Game, or be on the road for that Wild Card Game. None of those three outcomes would surprise me right now.

Teams on the outside looking in

  • Mariners: 79-64 (<1.0 percent postseason odds per SportsLine)
  • Rays: 78-64 (1.4 percent postseason odds per SportsLine)

The Mariners are 7 1/2 games behind the Athletics for the second wild-card spot and they're a half-game up on the Rays, but SportsLine gives Tampa Bay slightly better postseason odds at the moment. That's because the system likes their current roster a bit better. Even then, both the Mariners and Rays are postseason long shots with three weeks to go in the regular season. Realistically, the only remaining postseason races in the AL involve seeding.

Teams eliminated

  • Orioles: 41-102
  • Royals: 47-95
  • White Sox: 56-87
  • Tigers: 89-84
  • Rangers: 61-82
  • Blue Jays: 65-78

The Blue Jays became the latest AL team to be eliminated from postseason contention over the weekend. The Twins are next up. They've already been eliminated from the wild-card race and any combination of Twins losses and Indians wins totaling five the rest of the season will knock Minnesota out of postseason contention.

The Orioles have a comfortable 6 1/2-game lead over the Royals for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 amateur draft and the race is on to see whether Baltimore can avoid becoming only the sixth team in baseball history to lose 115 games in a season. The O's have to go 7-12 the rest of the season to avoid 115 losses. They have to go 12-7 to avoid 110 losses. It's going to be tough.

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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