48 hours mystery: How will postseason line up?
The postseason is nearly upon us, with only two days remaining in the regular season. These two days promise to provide a heavy dose of drama, with plenty left to determine before Tuesday's American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser, including a division title, several home-field advantages and one final playoff spot.
Here's a look at how Friday's slate of games impacted the postseason picture:
Best of the best compete for home field
The next 48 hours will determine home-field advantage from the Wild Card round through to the World Series. In the AL, the Blue Jays and Royals are jockeying for additional home games throughout the entire playoffs, with their league already assured of home field in the Fall Classic.
Both Toronto and Kansas City won Friday to remain tied in the standings at 93-67. If the tie persists through the end of the regular season, the Blue Jays would have home field in a potential AL Championship Series after winning the season set vs. the Royals. Toronto would then face the winner of the Wild Card Game in the Division Series round, while Kansas City would take on the AL West champion.
The National League matchups are set, and the Cardinals have secured home field in both their NL Division Series matchup against the Wild Card winner and, should they advance, in the NL Championship Series. The Dodgers and Mets are assured of meeting in the Division Series round next week, and with New York's rainout Friday, the Dodgers pulled a half-game ahead. The Mets own the tiebreaker, so they can clinch home field with a sweep of the Nationals in Saturday's doubleheader and a Dodgers loss to the Padres.
The locations of both Wild Card Games remain there for the taking, though they're likely headed to Pittsburgh and New York. A Pirates win or a Cubs loss puts the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser at PNC Park, but if the two teams finish tied, the Cubs own the tiebreaker and the game will be at Wrigley Field due to Chicago's 11-8 record vs. the Bucs in head-to-head meetings this season. While the Yankees don't yet know their opponent for the one-game playoff, any New York win or Houston loss would assure it's held at Yankee Stadium.
Neither the Twins nor the Angels can catch New York in the standings, so there are only two scenarios that allow for the game to be played elsewhere, both requiring the Yankees to lose all three of their remaining games and the Astros to win out. If that did occur, the game would head to either Minute Maid Park in Houston or -- if the Astros win the AL West -- to Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Rangers come up shy of division title
The Rangers will have to wait at least one more day before breaking out the champagne. Texas fell short of clinching the AL West, thanks to a late rally by the Angels, who won, 2-1, on Friday.
The Rangers need just one more win over the Angels in their final two games or one more Houston loss to clinch their sixth division title in franchise history. The team has already secured at least a spot in the AL Wild Card Game.
"We're still in a good spot," Rangers designated hitter Prince Fielder said. "There is no panic. We just have to come out tomorrow, play good baseball and see what happens."
A division title would be quite the turnaround from last season, when the Rangers finished last in the AL with a 67-95 record. They've even come a long way since earlier this year, when they were a season-worst 9 1/2 games back in the AL West on May 19.
Astros remain front-runners in AL Wild Card race
The Astros made quite a statement Friday, erupting for 21 runs in a rout of the D-backs. The win put Houston one step closer to its first postseason appearance since reaching the World Series in 2005 and also knocked the Angels' elimination number down to two.
With two games remaining, the Astros are in the driver's seat in the race for the final playoff spot, a game ahead of Los Angeles and two games up on Minnesota. They can clinch a place in the AL Wild Card Game on Saturday with a win and an Angels' loss to the Rangers.
The Angels, who beat the first-place Rangers on Friday, have gone 19-10 since the start of September to climb back into the race. They need the D-backs to win at least one game this weekend to stay in contention.
"You never want to wait to come down to the end of the season, but if that's the way it goes, hopefully we can be the lucky ones," Albert Pujols said. "The Royals did it last year, and hopefully we can pull it off ourselves."
Other things to know
• The Twins lost, 3-1, to the Royals on Friday and are now just one more loss or an Astros win away from elimination.
"I don't like it, but all we can do is keep battling and see what happens," Torii Hunter said. "The scenario is those guys lose two, we win two. So we have to go out there tomorrow, but this one was a hard one to swallow."
• Two teams trying to secure home-field advantage in a playoff series were rained out Friday. Both the Yankees and Mets will make the games up as doubleheaders Saturday.
• Both NL Wild Card teams won Friday, keeping the Pirates two games up on the Cubs for home-field advantage in the one-game playoff.
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, Mets at Dodgers
2015 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
AL Wild Card Game: Tuesday
NL Wild Card Game: Wednesday
AL Division Series begin: Thursday
NL Division Series begin: Friday
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 16
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 17
World Series begins: Oct. 27