Epic home-field chases: KC-Jays, Dodgers-Mets
Three days are all that remain of the 2015 regular season. Five divisions are secured, and all but one postseason spot is locked down. Though there's still plenty at stake for this weekend, with matchups and home-field advantage left unsettled, along with one last division and a Wild Card spot.
Here's a look at how Thursday's results impacted the postseason picture:
Home-field up for grabs in both leagues
With the postseason field nearly filled, the final weekend of the regular season will determine home-field advantage leading up to the World Series. And Thursday saw two races tied as the Blue Jays and Royals were knotted at 92-67 and the Dodgers and Mets were even at 89-70.
Home-field throughout the entire postseason is at stake in the American League, where the Blue Jays and Royals have already clinched home field in their respective Division Series matchups. The Royals have what appears to be the tougher assignment this weekend, a three-game road series against the Twins, who are fighting to stay alive in the Wild Card race, while the Jays take on the Rays in Tampa Bay. Kansas City also needs to finish ahead of Toronto because it went 3-4 against the Blue Jays this season.
The Dodgers and Mets are already guaranteed to meet in one of the two National League Division Series, beginning Oct. 9, as the Cardinals (100-59) hold the top spot with the best record. The Mets own the tiebreaker against the Dodgers, so if Los Angeles and New York finish with the same record, that postseason series would begin at Citi Field.
Even the locations of both the NL and AL Wild Card Games presented by Budweiser are still to be the determined. The NL's matchup is set between the Cubs and Pirates, and Chicago gained a half-game on the idle Bucs on Thursday, beating the Reds, 5-3. Although the Cubs won the season series, PNC Park remains the likely destination for the game as Pittsburgh leads Chicago by two games for the NL's top Wild Card spot.
In the AL, the Yankees claimed one Wild Card spot on Thursday, and the other will go to either the runner-up in the AL West -- Texas, Los Angeles or Houston -- or Minnesota. The Yankees would be the home team against the Twins or Angels if either claims the second spot. But both the Rangers and Astros hold tiebreakers over New York.
The Rangers, who have a magic number of one to clinch the AL West, are currently tied with the Yankees at 87-72, while the Astros are three games back. Houston would need to win out and the Yankees would need to lose their final three contests, against Baltimore, for the AL Wild Card Game to be played in Houston.
Postseason-bound Yankees win No. 10,000
The 10,000th regular-season win in Yankees franchise history ensured New York will play at least one postseason game this year, clinching a spot in the AL Wild Card Game. It's the first time the Yankees have reached the postseason since they won the AL East in 2012. The Yankees will face either Texas, Houston, Los Angeles or Minnesota in the one-game playoff on Tuesday.
"We're just happy to be in," left fielder Brett Gardner said. "The way the playoffs are set up, with the one-game Wild Card, anything can happen. Everybody starts off on even footing and everybody has an equal opportunity. We're just excited to be in. The last two years were really disappointing, so this year feels really good."
The Yankees close out the season with a three-game set in Baltimore, a series that could have home-field implications for next week's Wild Card Game.
Rangers knock off Angels, return to postseason
The Rangers joined the Yankees on Thursday in clinching a postseason berth, beating the division rival Angels, 5-3, at Globe Life Park.
The win brought the Rangers one step closer to winning a sixth AL West title, which they can do as early as Friday with a win over the Angels or an Astros loss to the D-backs. It's a dramatic turnaround for a Texas club that lost 95 games and finished last in its division a year ago.
"We want to finish the job we started," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "The ultimate goal is to win the World Series, but first you have to get to the playoffs. We still have some work to do. Still, everybody is excited at the same time."
If Texas claims the AL West, it will face either the Blue Jays or Royals in the Division Series. If Houston catches the Rangers in the division and then wins a tiebreaker game, the Rangers would then take on the Yankees in the Wild Card. In order to force a tiebreaker, however, the Astros would need to win out to close the regular season and Texas would need to lose its final three games.
The Angels' loss eliminated them from the division race and knocked them back a half-game in their pursuit of a Wild Card spot. They're now a full game behind the Astros for the second Wild Card spot with three more matchups against the Rangers this weekend. Houston, meanwhile, has its three-game series against the D-backs in Arizona.
"We can't lose anymore," Mike Trout said. "It's plain and simple."
Other things to know
• The Twins beat the Indians, 4-2, to climb even with the Angels in the AL Wild Card standings. They've won eight of their past 11 games and are one game out of the second AL Wild Card spot.
• The Blue Jays, who lost, 6-4, to the Orioles on Thursday, are one win shy of setting a franchise record for wins after the All-Star break at 48. The previous high of 47 was set in 1989.
• Despite a win over the White Sox on Thursday, the Royals have lost 16 of their past 26 games.
If the postseason began today ...
Wild Card: Astros at Yankees
Division Series: Wild Card at Blue Jays, Rangers at Royals
Wild Card: Cubs at Pirates
Division Series: Wild Card at Cardinals, Dodgers at Mets
2015 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
AL Wild Card Game: Tuesday
NL Wild Card Game: Wednesday
AL Division Series begin: Thursday
NL Division Series begin: Oct. 9
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 16
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 17
World Series begins: Oct. 27