Everything You Need to Know About the Final Week of the Major League Baseball Regular Season
It all comes down to this. After 25 weeks, amazing stories and breakthroughs, the dog days of summer, and yet another scuffle in the dugout between teammates, the final week of the 2015 Major League Baseball regular season has arrived, and what a week it could be.
Of the six divisions, only two have been officially decided, those being the American League Central and the National League East. Every other race is still technically up in the air, although one may be decided as early as tonight. Not only that, there is still maneuvering to be done as far as seeding is concerned. Let's take a look at every single division, as well as the wild card races, and break down the standings and schedules that will decide the participants in the 2015 postseason.
American League East
The Toronto Blue Jays enter the final week of the regular season with a four-game lead over the New York Yankees. They've already clinched a playoff spot, but their magic number to win the AL East is four, while the Yankees magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to three. The Yankees currently hold a 4.5-game lead over the Houston Astros for the first wild card position, and seem poised to host the American League Wild Card game.
Toronto Blue Jays schedule: 9/28-10/1 at Baltimore, 10/2-10/4 at Tampa Bay
New York Yankees schedule: 9/28-10/1 vs Boston, 10/2-10/4 at Baltimore
American League Central
This division race has been over for quite some time, as the Kansas City Royals have had a stranglehold on the AL Central for months now, but a recent slump has them fighting for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They currently hold a 90-65 record, tied for the American League lead with the Toronto Blue Jays. If the two teams were to finish with the exact same record come Sunday afternoon, the Blue Jays would get the number one seed, due to the Royals 3-4 record against Toronto this season. They'll need to have a good week to lock up that top spot. Here's how their week breaks down.
9/28 at Chicago Cubs (makeup of postponed game on 5/30), 9/29-10/1 at Chicago White Sox, 10/2-10/4 at Minnesota
American League West
It's going to be an exciting week in the American League West. The top three teams are separated by three games from top to bottom. With the Yankees currently holding a big lead in the wild card race, there doesn't seem to be room for the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to all make the postseason. The Rangers currently sit atop the division, holding a 2.5-game lead on the Astros and a three-game lead on the Angels. However, the Angels can help themselves later this week with a big four-game set in Arlington, as long as they can keep up before then. Here's how the schedule breaks down for all three teams.
Texas Rangers: 9/28-9/30 vs Detroit, 10/1-10/4 vs Los Angeles
Houston Astros: 9/28-9/30 at Seattle, 10/2-10/4 at Arizona
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 9/28-9/30 vs Oakland, 10/1-10/4 at Texas
American League Wild Card
As mentioned previously, the New York Yankees currently hold a 4.5-game lead in the American League wild card race, so it stands to reason that with only a week to go, they've got the first spot locked up. The second spot, on the other hand, is wide open. The Houston Astros sit in that spot at the moment, holding a half-game lead on the Angels, a 1.5-game lead on the Minnesota Twins, and the Cleveland Indians, at 77-77, sit four games back. That basically leaves one spot for four teams. We've already looked at the schedules for the Yankees, Astros, and Angels. As luck would have it, the Twins and Indians are set to kick off a four-game series in Cleveland tonight, so the hope for the Astros and Angels is that those two teams just cancel each other out. The Twins end the season at home with the Royals while the Indians finish up with a three-game set in Cleveland against the Red Sox. If the Indians can manage a miraculous week, they may need to play one game against the Detroit Tigers to make up for a rainout last weekend, but it's hard to surpass three teams in seven days. Nevertheless, it should be a very fun week in the American League.
National League East
In what some would call one of the biggest surprises of the year, the New York Mets have run away with the National League East. As they start the last week of the season, they hold an 11-game lead on the Washington Nationals, who are obviously having some internal issues and have already clinched the division title. It would be nice for the Mets to relax, but they'll be fighting for position this week. They won't catch whomever wins the National League Central, but they'll be trying to lock up that number two seed. They currently hold that position by 1.5 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Here's how their week breaks down.
9/29-10/1 at Philadelphia, 10/2-10/4 vs Washington
National League Central
With a win last night, the Chicago Cubs are tied with the Blue Jays and Royals for the third-best record in all of baseball and have already clinched their first playoff berth since 2008, but they aren't even in the conversation to win the National League Central. That's how good this division is. Throughout the season, the St. Louis Cardinals have been the best team in baseball, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are only three games back with a week to go. Both teams are already in the playoffs; it's just a matter of where and when those postseason games will be. But let's not jump ahead. The biggest series of the season for both teams begins on Monday night in Pittsburgh as the Pirates and Cardinals play the first of a three-game set. Pittsburgh desperately needs a sweep, while the Cardinals could clinch yet another division crown by taking two out of three.
Once that series is over, the Cardinals remain on the road and finish up in Atlanta starting Friday, while the Pirates stay at home for a weekend series with the Reds. If the two teams finish tied at the end of the week, they would play a one-game playoff to decide who wins the division and who wins a wild card spot.
National League West
While this division isn't officially decided yet, the Los Angeles Dodgers hold a six-game lead on the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. It would take a special kind of week for the Giants to win the division, but they'll control their own destiny starting Monday night when they host the Dodgers for a four-game series at AT&T Park. However, with the Dodgers' magic number sitting at 2, they only need to win one of these games to clinch the NL West crown.
However, the Dodgers are sitting 1.5 games behind the Mets for the number two seed, so they may not be looking to rest up for the playoffs. Following the series against the Giants, they'll finish the season at home against the San Diego Padres. If the Giants can sweep, they'll have to sweep the Rockies in their closing series as well and pray that the Dodgers don't win a game this week. Again, highly unlikely.
National League Wild Card
This race certainly isn't as exciting as the one in the American League, as the spots are already taken, but there are a couple of different scenarios that could play out. The Cubs are in this game; that's already a lock. They currently sit 4.5 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates for the top spot, which will make it very tough to pass them in a week. But the Pirates are playing St. Louis, so a sweep from the Cardinals certainly isn't out of the question. The Cubs have one game tonight against the Royals to make up a postponed contest from May 30th and close out against the Reds and Brewers, who have a combined .414 winning percentage. If the Pirates and Cubs finish with the same record, the National League Wild Card game would be played at Wrigley Field on October 7.
But the Pirates could also win the division, meaning that one of the best rivalries in baseball, the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, could meet at Busch Stadium to decide who goes to the NLDS.
There's nothing quite like the last week of the season, is there?