With the end of the regular season approaching, playoff races are approaching their climaxes. On Friday, the Texas Rangers led the Tampa Bay Rays by a game for the first wild card slot, with the Cleveland Indians 1.5 games behind.
Fast forward three days and Texas and Tampa are tied with a record of 81-67. Cleveland is waiting for either team to make a mistake, with only half of a game separating it from a postseason slot. Baltimore is lurking as well, only down 2.5 games with 13 left to play.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon admitted to watching the scoreboard on Friday, but also said that the Rays need to focus on their own games.
The Rays took two of the three games in their weekend series against the Minnesota Twins, but the Rangers continued their slide. After being swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates to start last week, the Rangers limped into the weekend only to get swept again, this time by the Oakland Athletics.
With records tied, the two wild card leaders begin a four-game series in Tampa tonight. Rays pitcher Alex Cobb, at 8-3, takes on Rangers pitcher Matt Garza, who sports a 9-5 record of his own.
The Indians take on the Kansas City Royals, while the Orioles will face the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox.
In the National League, the three teams fighting for two wild card slots are all in the Central Division. Pittsburgh is tied for the division lead with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Cincinnati Reds are 3.5 games behind them. In terms of the NL wild card, the next closest team are the Washington Nationals, sitting at 4.5 games behind the Reds.
The Pirates have already accomplished something the franchise hasn’t done for 21 years in guaranteeing a finish above .500, but a postseason appearance would be the cherry on top of this season. They begin a series against the San Diego Padres before facing the Reds this upcoming weekend.
Those same Reds travel to the Houston Astros for three games. The Cardinals, meanwhile, will head to Colorado to take on the Rockies. After the Rockies, St. Louis has a weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers.