The 2017 American League playoff picture is all but set heading into the final five games of the season. Just one spot—the second wild card—is up for grabs. And even that's a generous characterization of the situation.
The Minnesota Twins have practically wrapped up the Junior Circuit's fifth and final postseason berth. Their 8-6 win over the Cleveland Indians put Paul Molitor's club up five games on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with five to play. If the Twins extend their current five-game hot streak by just one day, they'll wrap up their first foray into October since 2010.
That makes for an anticlimactic final week in the AL, though not one without consequence. There is still plenty of shuffling to be done among the four other teams—Cleveland, the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees—that have already punched their tickets for more autumn baseball.
American League Wild-Card Contenders Schedule
- New York Yankees: vs. Tampa Bay Rays (2 games), vs. Toronto Blue Jays (3 games)
- Minnesota Twins: at Cleveland Indians (2 games), vs. Detroit Tigers (3 games)
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: at Chicago White Sox (2 games), vs. Seattle Mariners (3 games)
As it stands, the Twins would take on the New York Yankees in the one-game playoff. The winner of that would face Cleveland—already repeat AL Central champs—in the divisional round, while the Astros and Red Sox duke it out on the other side of the bracket.
None of those matchups is set in stone yet. In the AL East, Boston is just three games up on New York, with a much more daunting slate on its plate and an 11-8 deficit in its head-to-head series with its fiercest rival in 2017.
After closing out a three-game stint against Toronto on Wednesday, the Red Sox will wrap up the regular season with four games against the Astros at Fenway Park.
The Sox took two of three from the 'Stros in Space City in June. A bad series for Boston would leave the door wide open for New York to claim its first AL East crown since 2009—the same year the Yanks won their 27th and most recent World Series pennant.
New York isn't exactly facing a murderer's row of opponents to finish the regular season. Their remaining foes, the Rays and Jays, have won just 47.9 percent of their games in 2017 and both sit 12 or more games back of the Yankees in the standings.
Houston has its own reasons for bringing its A-game to Boston. The Astros (97-60) have already run away with the AL West and now sit just one game behind Cleveland (98-59) in the race for the American League's best record.
The Indians, too, have dominated their division. They are 15 games up on the second-place Twins, thanks in no small part to their recent 22-game winning streak. It also helps Cleveland's cause that it has cleaned up against divisional foes, to the tune of a 46-25 mark.
The American League champions could extend that excellence before the current campaign is through. They have two games left against Minnesota and another three opposite the Chicago White Sox—all five at Progressive Field.
Chances are, the AL's seedings won't change much between now and October. But crazier things have happened in baseball, so stay tuned to see how the playoff field comes together.