The Tenth Inning – Week 24 Playoff Race

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By Mike Ivcic

With pennant races heating up, we at the Ultimate Capper decided to break down exactly what every team still chasing a playoff spot has left on their schedule. And, in true Ultimate Capper form, we’re going to predict the record for each team over the last two and a half weeks and let you know exactly who will be making the postseason where. You can thank us later.


AL East
Yankees (83-63, 16 games left ) – H Toronto (3), H Oakland (3), at Minnesota (3), at Toronto (4), H Boston (3)
Orioles (82-64, 16 games left) – at Seattle (3), at Boston (3), H Toronto (4), H Boston (3), at Tampa Bay (3)
Rays (78-68, 16 games left) – H Boston (4), H Toronto (3), at Boston (2), at Chicago (4), H Baltimore (3)
Analysis – The Yankees clearly have the easiest closing schedule and the Rays clearly have the most difficult, especially the final two series. Expect New York to right the ship here and win at least 10 games, which should be enough to hold off the O’s and win the AL East.
New York 94-68
Baltimore 91-71
Tampa Bay 87-75

AL Central
White Sox (79-66, 17 games left) – H Detroit (1), at Kansas City (3), at Los Angeles (3), H Cleveland (3), H Tampa Bay (4), at Cleveland (3)
Tigers (77-68, 17 games left) – at Chicago (1), H Oakland (3), H Minnesota (3), H Kansas City (4), at Minnesota (3), at Kansas City (3)
Analysis – One big game remains today (Fister for the Tigers, Quintana for the Sox) and then these two teams will battle it out away from each other. After three against the A’s, the Tigers clearly have the easier road – and that’s what I think gives them the division.
Detroit 88-76
Chicago 87-77

AL West
Rangers (87-59, 16 games left) – at Los Angeles (3), at Seattle (3), H Oakland (4), H Los Angeles (3), at Oakland (3)
Athletics (84-62, 16 games left) – at Detroit (3), at New York (3), at Texas (4), H Seattle (3), H Texas (3)
Angels (80-67, 15 games left) – H Texas (3), H Chicago (3), H Seattle (3), at Texas (3), at Seattle (3)
Analysis – This is likely the only division that will be decided head-to-head from this point forward, with the lone exception of no games remaining between LA and Oakland. The A’s have navigated their tough closing schedule well to this point, but I can’t see them getting through the rest of it without a handful of losses. Based on the math, though, they’ll still get one of the two wild card spots – by a game.
Texas 97-65
Oakland 90-72
Los Angeles 89-73

NL East
Nationals (89-57, 16 games left) – H Los Angeles (3), H Milwaukee (4), at Philadelphia (3), at St. Louis (3), H Philadelphia (3)
Braves (84-63, 15 games left) – at Miami (3), at Philadelphia (3) H Miami (3), H New York (3), at Pittsburgh (3)
Phillies (73-74, 15 games left) – at New York (3), H Atlanta (3), H Washington (3), at Miami (3), at Washington (3)
Analysis – Phillies fans, give it up – I only included you on here just so I could drag another nail into your coffin. Losing three of four in Houston basically ended your season. There’s really no debate between Atlanta and Washington, either – barring another epic collapse by one or the other, the Nationals will win the East and the Braves will host the wild card playoff game. Also, my shot at the schedule makers – somehow the Nationals have 16 games remaining and yet they’re finished for the year against the Mets, Marlins, and Braves – three of the four teams in their division. Awesome job league.
Washington 97-65
Atlanta 92-70
Philadelphia 80-82

NL Central
Reds (88-59, 15 games left) – at Chicago (3), H Los Angeles (3), H Milwaukee (3), at Pittsburgh (3), at St. Louis (3)
Cardinals (77-70, 15 games left) – H Houston (3), at Chicago (3), at Houston (3), H Washington (3), H Cincinnati (3)
Brewers (74-72, 16 games left) – at Pittsburgh, (3), at Washington (4), at Cincinnati (3), H Houston (3), H San Diego (3)
Pirates (73-72, 17 games left) – at Chicago (1), H Milwaukee (3), at Houston (3), at New York (4), H Cincinnati (3), H Atlanta (3)
Analysis – The Reds magic number to clinch the division is 5, which basically means it’s wild card or bust for the other three teams. The Cardinals have the edge in schedule now while the Brewers and Pirates play an elimination series, while Milwaukee clearly gets the easiest closing slate of the three. Overall, though, this is St. Louis’ race to lose.
Cincinnati 96-66
St. Louis 85-77
Pittsburgh 83-79
Milwaukee 82-80

NL West
Giants (83-63, 16 games left) – H Colorado (4), H San Diego (3), H Arizona (3), at San Diego (3), at Los Angeles (3)
Dodgers (76-71, 15 games left) – at Washington (3), at Cincinnati (3), at San Diego (3), H Colorado (3), H San Francisco (3)
Analysis – Not only do the Giants have the game in hand and a 7.5 game lead, they also have the easier closing schedule with no one left above .500 outside of LA. The Dodgers have to hope they manage to get through the next six games without falling out of wild card contention, let alone any thoughts of catching San Francisco. The final three games of the year won’t matter for NL West purposes.
San Francisco 92-70
Los Angeles 84-78

Playoff “Dead” List
September 17 – Pittsburgh Pirates – The ride was a blast, and this is still a team on pace to snap the longest string of losing seasons in professional sports history, but there comes a time when ever good story must come to an end. The 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates will probably be swept under the radar by the Athletics and Orioles – especially if that ultimately proves to be the AL Wild Card game – but give Pirates GM Neil Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle a ton of credit. They have finally brought baseball back into the minds of all those living in western PA, and that certainly has to count for something.
September 10 – Arizona Diamondbacks
September 3 – Boston Red Sox
August 27 – Miami Marlins
August 20 – New York Mets
August 13 – Cleveland Indians
August 6 – Philadelphia Phillies
July 30 – Milwaukee Brewers
July 23 – Toronto Blue Jays
July 16 – Kansas City Royals
July 9 – Oakland Athletics
July 2 – Colorado Rockies
June 25 – Seattle Mariners
June 18 – Houston Astros
June 11 – Minnesota Twins
June 4 – Chicago Cubs
May 28 – San Diego Padres

Three series to watch this week…
1) OAK @ DET (9/18-9/20) – Big series for both teams. Oakland might be able to really put the wild card away with a sweep, while the Tigers will need this even more so if they lose Monday to the White Sox
2) LAD @ WAS (9/18-9/20) – The Braves sweep of Washington should have sent a least a little shockwave though the Nats clubhouse, who now get a desperate Dodgers team trying to salvage their season. If Washington wants home field in the playoffs, winning this series is important.
3) TEX @ LAA (9/18-9/20) – Texas can feel Oakland breathing down their backside, so winning two of three in LA would certainly be nice. Meanwhile the Angels definitely need a sweep if they want to think about catching the A’s, and at least 2 of 3 if they want to keep pressure on Baltimore.

If the season ended today, the playoff teams would be…
National League
1. Washington Nationals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Saint Louis Cardinals

American League
1. Texas Rangers
2. New York Yankees
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Oakland Athletics
5. Baltimore Orioles

Check out my weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday and the weekly “Power Rankings” every Friday, only at

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