Entering the penultimate weekend of baseball’s regular season, so much is in flux. The calming part is the National League. Every division race is wrapped up and the Wild Card will become a matter of which pair of teams are the odd ones out between the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, and Cincinnati Reds. The American League will be chaotic. The AL Central is decided and congratulations to the Twins for being the seventh-best team in the AL — if Minnesota is even that high on the totem pole — surrounded by crappier teams. The craziness that will be the final 10 days of the Major League Baseball season truly comes down to one matchup: The Texas Rangers vs. Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners and Rangers will play seven times over the next week-plus, starting with three in Arlington tonight and four in the Pacific Northwest to end the season. Seattle has a home series against Houston sandwiching those battles against the Rangers, while Texas might not see Globe Life Field again until 2024, as a road trip to face the Angels is its second-to-last series of the season. Advantage Rangers, because the Astros didn’t complete a fire sale weeks after trying to be buyers at the trade deadline. Also, advantage Texas, who holds a 5-1 record against Seattle from its previous two series this season. The Rangers and the Mariners are currently tied for the final Wild Card spot with the exact same record, 7.5 games ahead of the soon-to-be-eliminated Yankees and a half-game behind the Blue Jays. And to complicate matters, both Seattle and Texas are a half-game out of first place in the AL West, where Houston is currently at the helm. Remember the Rangers’ slide at the end of last month? They’d basically be assured a playoff spot right now even if they played .500 ball. Now they must fight to keep their season alive past next weekend.
The American League will no doubt have the more exciting playoff race, because no matter which six teams make the cut, five have a chance to win the pennant. Of course, I’m excluding the Twins, without the bounce from playing the AL Central more than anyone else, this might be a .500 team at best. How the Rangers and Mariners beat up on each other will likely be the catalyst for which teams finish where, with one major roadblock that can’t be ruled out — Toronto doing a north-of-the-border nose dive.
Toronto might have one of the hardest schedules left in baseball, with a series against the Yankees sandwiched by seven games against Tampa Bay. Despite the Rays already clinching a playoff spot, they’re still fighting for the AL East crown against an Orioles team everyone outside of the Chaps Pit Beef lovers of the Charm City thinks will implode eventually. Baltimore still hasn’t, and credit to the O’s for not letting a petulant owner bring down the entire organization. Tampa is going to fight for everything in those games, making the Blue Jays a sitting target. Seattle and Texas could win three games from playing each other and still easily make the playoffs.
My prediction? Baltimore hangs on to win the AL East, but not due to the efforts of the Rays to catch them. We get all three eligible AL West teams in the postseason, with a colossal Rangers vs. Rays one-off Wild Card game on the horizon. Seattle claims the final Wild Card spot and rides that all the way to the ALCS, where the heavy-hitters winner meets it between Texas, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore. And all that chaos to lose to Atlanta in the World Series.
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