(CBS San Francisco/CBS Local) — The MLB regular season, at 162 games, is pretty long. Yet, in the final week, the American League’s wild card teams are far from decided. The Oakland Athletics (94-62) lead the way, followed by the Tampa Bay Rays (93-64) and Cleveland Indians (92-64). Two of those three teams will play in next week’s AL play-in game, but which two and where?
The National League wild card is almost settled, with the Chicago Cubs (82-74) basically playing themselves out of contention last week. The Washington Nationals (86-69) and Milwaukee Brewers (86-70) will determine this week who hosts the NL wild card.
That is, unless the Brewers’ current hot streak lets them overtake the National League Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals (90-67). The division title is still there for the taking. Can the Cardinals finally put it away?
MLB could finish the regular season with four teams winning at least 100 games. Three teams already have, and three others have a shot at the century mark.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at the AL and NL wild card races, the state of play in the NL Central and the chances of MLB having four 100-game winners.
AL Wild Card Up For Grabs
After Monday’s action, in the final week of MLB’s regular season, both the AL and NL wild card teams have yet to be decided.
In the AL, the A’s hold the first of two wild card spots. The Rays hold the other, with the Indians just .5 games back. All three AL wild card hopefuls have played well in September.
The A’s have been eliminated from AL West contention, but they have also won eight of their last 10 going into a two-game set with the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rays, eliminated from AL East contention themselves, finish out the season against division opponents. That includes two games against the Yankees and three against the Blue Jays. How bad the Yankees want home-field advantage will determine how difficult this matchup is for the Rays.
The Indians still have a shot at the AL Central crown. But making up four games by Sunday seems unlikely. They’ve been hovering around five games behind the Minnesota Twins (96-60) for all of September. The Tribe will look to make up ground against the Nationals, who continue to fight for their playoff lives over in the National League.
The National League has seen some movement in its wild card race over the last week. The Nationals remain one of the two teams, despite going 5-5 over their last 10. They face the Philadelphia Phillies in four of their remaining games after beating them 7-2 Monday night. Phillies star and former National Bryce Harper would relish the chance to spoil his ex-team’s chances.
The Milwaukee Brewers, surprisingly, now hold the other NL wild card spot. Without MVP candidate Christian Yelich, who fractured his kneecap a couple weeks ago and will miss the rest of the season, they were expected to fade fast. But the Brewers are 11-2 since the injury and close to turning playoff dreams into reality.
The Chicago Cubs, however, have lived the nightmare. losing six straight, including four to the Cardinals. They are now four games out and in danger of missing the playoffs entirely.
The New York Mets (81-74), five games out, continue to hang around. But need plenty of wins and plenty of help in the coming days. Losing to the Miami Marlins, like they did Monday night, won’t get it done.
NL Central Division Title Still In Play
One week ago, the Cardinals led the Cubs by two games and the Brewers by three games in a tight NL Central. Then the Cardinals swept a four-game series from the Cubs after the Cubs lost two to the Cincinnati Reds. And if that weren’t demoralizing enough for the Cubs, the Cardinals won each of the four games by one run.
Now it’s a two-team race between the Cardinals and the Brewers. The Cards, riding a six-game winning streak, have the inside track to their first division title in four years. Strong pitching is partially to thank. The Brewers, as mentioned before, continue to win as well, despite the loss of Yelich. But they still trail by 3.5 games.
As for the Cubs, they still have an outside shot at a wild card spot.
Four Teams Could Win 100 Games
The New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers have all won 100 games en route to clinching their respective divisions. Each of those teams has legitimate dreams of playing well into October.
Three other teams, including one that won’t even take their division, could also win 100 games. The Minnesota Twins (96-60), among MLB’s biggest 2019 success stories, finish out the season with the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. Four wins in six games is certainly doable. It would certainly crush any hopes the Indians have of stealing the AL Central.
The A’s would have to win out against the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners to get to 100. Continuing their hot streak would position them well for the play-in game.
The Atlanta Braves (96-61) have wrapped up the NL East and have their eyes set on the postseason. They finish up with the Royals and Mets, who could certainly give up four wins between them.
One more 100-win team among those three would add up to four total and would be the first time in MLB history that four teams win 100 games in the same season.
MLB already has four 100-loss teams –Baltimore Orioles (51-106), Tigers (46-109), Royals (57-100), and Marlins (55-101). That also matches a record. But with no other team within reach of 100 losses, the record will stand at least another year.