Every MLB Contender's Dream Scenario over Season's Final 3 Games
Over the next three days, there are still a few playoff spots up for grabs, and the teams contending for those spots will be doing all they can to secure them.
None of the divisional races in the American League are wrapped up; however, the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers are both in the driver's seat in the AL Central and West divisions.
The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles are dead even at the top of the AL East, but both teams have qualified for at least a Wild Card.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels are both clinging to life for the final AL Wild Card playoff, but barely alive.
The National League only has two races remaining. The Washington Nationals can clinch the NL East on Monday with a win, and the St. Louis Cardinals can clinch the second Wild Card spot with a win and a loss by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Not quite the drama that panned out last year on the final day of the regular season, but drama nonetheless.
Here are the dream scenarios for each contender as they work to position themselves for the playoffs.
Atlanta Braves: Just Keep the Troops Healthy
The Atlanta Braves are 19-8 in the month of September and are easily playing as well as they have all season.
Kris Medlen, the hottest pitcher on the Braves staff, is now set up to start to the pivotal Wild Card game on Friday. The Braves have won 23 consecutive games that Medlen has started, establishing a new major league record.
The entire lineup is healthy and appears ready as well. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who missed two months with a broken bone in his right hand, is rounding back into form as well. Simmons raised his average above .300 with his most recent 7-for-13 spurt.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez will be doing all he can to keep his team fresh, relaxed and healthy over the next three games. He'll have enough drama to deal with on Friday with a do-or-die matchup.
Baltimore Orioles: Young Starters Need to Come Up Big
The Baltimore Orioles travel to Tropicana Field to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in their final regular season series. With a division title hanging in the balance, the O's will turn to two starters headed in different directions.
Wei-Yin Chen takes the mound on Monday night for the Orioles. Chen has stumbled through the month of September, posting an 0-3 record and 5.90 ERA in five starts. Chen needs to dig down deep tonight and at least get into the seventh inning, giving the stellar bullpen a chance to do their magic.
Chen is 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in two starts at Tropicana Field this season.
Miguel Gonzalez will take his turn on Tuesday. Gonzalez is 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in his last five starts, continuing to impress in his first season.
Gonzalez walked away with a no-decision in his only start at Tropicana Field despite giving up no runs and just two hits in seven innings on Aug. 5.
Chicago White Sox: Pray for a Royal Whipping
The Chicago White Sox need to take care of business over the next three days at Progressive Field as they take on the Cleveland Indians. They'll be hoping for a royal whipping as well.
The team the White Sox are chasing—the Detroit Tigers—end their regular season with a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
The White Sox first need to do their thing—sweep the Indians. They'll then be hoping the Royals can do the same.
Detroit Tigers: Use Home Field to Their Advantage
The Detroit Tigers have a magic number of one to win the AL Central Division title. All they have to do is take care of business against the Kansas City Royals, a team they've beaten 11 of 15 times.
The Tigers will be the No. 3 seed if they clinch the AL Central, and that's a good thing considering this year's playoff format.
The lower-seeded teams in the LDS host the first two games this year before hitting the road. The Tigers' home record of 50-31 clearly plays to their advantage. On the road, they're just 36-42 entering tonight's contest with the Royals.
The Tigers are set up well for the first two games at Comerica Park. Justin Verlander—with his 1.65 home ERA—will be well-rested, as will Max Scherzer, assuming he's healthy. Scherzer has been much better at home. Doug Fister could start Game 3 on the road. Fister's 3.55 road ERA is the best on the staff.
Los Angeles Angels: Complete Games from Wilson, Haren and Weaver
The Los Angeles Angels travel to Safeco Field to take on the Seattle Mariners for the final three games of the season. The Halos need to win out and hope their divisional counterpart throws up a goose egg a little farther south.
The Oakland A's are taking on the Texas Rangers at home. While the Angels will be hoping for a Texas-style whooping, they'll also be hoping their trio of upcoming starters—C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, Jered Weaver—can throw up some goose eggs of their own.
The Angels bullpen has been the Achilles heel for the Halos this year, so the best they can hope for is that Wilson, Haren and Weaver can be long and strong to end the season.
Los Angeles Dodgers: A Giant Laydown and a Red Uprising
The Los Angeles Dodgers' 2012 season comes down to two deciding factors—a Giant laydown and a Red uprising.
Slim odds indeed.
The San Francisco Giants visit Dodger Stadium for a three-game series to end the regular season. The Giants are already assured of the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, so they will likely be looking to rest some starters and set up their rotation.
The Dodgers need to take advantage of that scenario first.
Second, the Cincinnati Reds visit Busch Stadium to take on the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards are two games up on the Dodgers with three to play, so the Dodgers will be hoping the Reds can finish out their season with a three-game sweep, or at least take two of three with a Dodgers' sweep to force a one-game play-in game.
An awful lot to ask for, but for the Dodgers, that's the only hope.
New York Yankees: Red Sox Continue Late-Season Swoon
The Boston Red Sox won only 16 of 55 games in the last two months. They end their miserable season at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees will look to continue their dominance over the woeful Sox, winning 10 of their 15 games against them already this season. The Yankees are facing Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzake and will counter with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda.
If the Yankees prevail and win the AL East, they'll have a well-rested Andy Pettitte, a clutch posteason performer throughout his career. They'll also have a healthy Mark Teixeira back in the lineup as well on Monday. Teixeira has missed 30 of the last 31 games with a calf strain.
A sweep is absolutely the best scenario. With the Baltimore Orioles facing a tough three-game matchup with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, the Yankees can take advantage by taking care of business at home.
Oakland Athletics: Break out the Brooms
Nothing is as yet decided in the American League in terms of seedings for the playoffs. Only one Wild Card slot hangs in the balance as well.
The Oakland A's are in control of that Wild Card slot as of right now, and they finish the regular season at home against the team they're chasing in the AL West, the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers need just one win to finish off the A's in the division, but that doesn't knock the A's out of the playoffs. Oakland's magical season will be extended if the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays lose one game or if the A's win.
Best-case scenario for the A's is a sweep of Texas, plain and simple. The A's don't have an ace, per se, that they can go to in a one-game, do-or-die matchup. Their chances in a five-game series is definitely more in their favor.
St. Louis Cardinals: Continued Offensive Surge from Carlos Beltran
On Sunday afternoon, St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran showed major signs of late-season life.
Beltran hit homers from both sides of the plate and collected five RBI in the Cardinals' 10-4 win over the Washington Nationals.
Beltran has battled nagging injuries and diminished production in the second half, so his breakout game against the Nats was a positive sign.
The Cardinals can clinch at least a tie for the second Wild Card slot on Monday night against the Cincinnati Reds. Beltran's bat will be a key for the Cardinals—not only for the season-ending three-game set, but the ensuing playoffs as well.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Price Isn't Always Right
The Tampa Bay Rays close out at Tropicana Field with a three-game series against their AL East rival Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately, they'll be trying to qualify for the playoffs without their best starter, David Price.
Price won his 20th game of the season Sunday by defeating the Chicago White Sox, keeping the Rays alive in their quest for the postseason. Now, the Rays will rely on Alex Cobb, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson to keep hopes alive.
The Rays need the Oakland A's to falter as well, but with their own fate, the Price may not be right.
Texas Rangers: Hope Adrian Beltre's Shoulder Holds Out
The Texas Rangers got a bit of a scare in the nightcap of a doubleheader with the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre, the team's hottest hitter in the second half, was forced to leave the game after lunging for a line drive off the bat of Mark Trumbo. Beltre aggravated his left shoulder in the process. Beltre has had issues with the shoulder for several weeks, so there was understandably some concern in the Rangers clubhouse.
Apparently, Beltre is at least expected to be available on Monday. Beltre finished off the month of September hitting .337 with 11 HR and 19 RBI. Arguably the Rangers' MVP this year, Beltre has been a force for the Rangers in the second half—they can ill-afford to lose him now.
Washington Nationals: Clinch on Monday and Set Up Rotation
The Washington Nationals will have a chance to clinch the NL East on Monday with either a win or an Atlanta Braves loss.
John Lannan, the rotation replacement for Stephen Strasburg, takes the hill on Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies. Lannan is 4-0 with a 4.23 ERA. In five starts, Lannan's only stinker was against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 19.
If Lannan takes care of business on Monday, manager Davey Johnson will have the opportunity to set up his rotation for the NLDS. All starters would be well-rested, giving the stellar rotation a decided advantage over whoever their opponent will be.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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