Ridaught: MLB playoffs heating up

Major League Baseball - ball and glove

The Major League Baseball playoffs don’t start for another week until Oct. 7.

Well, technically.

Considering seven of the 12 playoff spots are still undecided, this week and next week will have the feel of a postseason tournament for teams that are still alive for a berth.

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The Tampa Bay Rays did themselves no favors by splitting a 4-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 7-1 loss on Sunday dropped them two games behind the Blue Jays in the American League wild-card race.

Making matters worse is that Tampa Bay has nine games remaining — all on the road.

However, thanks to the Seattle Mariners, who blew an 11-2 lead and lost to the Kansas City Royals, along with the Baltimore Orioles’ extra inning loss to the Houston Astros, the magic number for the Rays to clinch a spot for the fourth consecutive year is at five games (Tampa Bay wins and Baltimore losses).

The Cleveland Guardians won the AL Central title on Sunday. It was their first division title since 2018. They became the first team in AL/NL history to win a division or league title while seeing at least 16 rookies make their Major League debuts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The New York Yankees are closing in on the AL East division title. They lead the Blue Jays by 8.5 games with nine games to play. They travel to Toronto tonight at 7:07 p.m. for the first of a 3-game series.

The Astros (101-53) have the second best record in baseball. They clinched the AL West a week ago in a 5-0 win against the Oakland Athletics.

The Mariners may have the best shot at a wild card with a 10-game homestand coming up. 

Seattle (83-69) plays three games against both the Texas Rangers (65-87) and the Oakland Athletics, plus a 4-game series to close the season against the Detroit Tigers (60-92). 

The Chicago White Sox (76-77), who are 10 games back of the Guardians, were officially eliminated from the playoff chase on Sunday.

Over in the National League, the New York Mets (97-57) and the Atlanta Braves (95-58) are fighting it out for the NL East title. They have both clinched a playoff spot.

That Atlanta Braves, who just lost one of their best players, have a 3-game series at the Washington Nationals (53-99) starting tonight at 7:05 p.m. and then they host the Mets in a key 3-game series beginning on Friday at 7:20 p.m.

In the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals are closing in on the division. 

The Cardinals (89-65), who lead the Milwaukee Brewers (82-71) by 6.5 games, travel to Milwaukee for a 2-game series tomorrow and Wednesday before finishing up with six games against the Pirates — three at home followed by three on the road.

The Cardinals’ Albert Pujols joined the 700-home run club with a two-homer day on Friday in an 11-0 win against the Dodgers.

The Dodgers (106-47), who have the best record in baseball, have run away with the NL West. It’s their ninth title in the last 10 years.

Los Angeles leads the San Diego Padres (85-68) by 21 games.

The Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies (83-69) are in the thick of the NL Wild Card race.

History is in the making with a 12-team field this year thanks to an extra wild card team in each league.

Get ready for an October to remember.

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