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American League Wild Card race is still wide open

Let's take a took at the Wild Card race...

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports


With one week left to go in the regular season, both American League Wild Card spots are both still wide open. Here's a look at the five teams still vying for those spots...

AL Wild Card standings through Sunday, 9/21 (top two make playoffs):
Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Athletics 85 70 +.5 702 552 +150
Royals 84 70 - 616 600 +16
Mariners 83 72 1.5 611 519 +92
Indians 81 74 3.5 650 633 +17
Yankees 80 75 4.5 597 628 -31

Oakland Athletics

The A's had the best record in baseball for most of the season (and they still have the best run differential), but over the last six weeks they've gone 13-26, worst in the American League. Their pitching has been roughly league average during that time, but their offense has fallen apart, as they've scored just 3.33 runs per game, also worst in the AL.

Cleveland has been 11 games better since the end of August 9th and each of the other teams in the standings above have gained at least 6 games on them, but they've still got a two-game playoff cushion. That may not sound like much, but is a big deal this late in the season. The PECOTA playoff odds at Baseball Prospectus have their chances of making the postseason at 94.9%, so they're still in very good shape.

The Schedule: 3 games at home vs. the Angels (who have the best record in the league), followed by 4 games at Texas (who has the worst record in the league).

What they need: If Oakland goes 5-2 it's assured of playing beyond Sunday, but even 2-5 probably puts them into at least a tiebreaker game. If they miss the playoffs, it will be among the worse collapses in recent history, but they'll likely get another shot at making Billy Beane's $%&# work in the playoffs.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals haven't been to the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, and they've finished with a winning record only twice since 1994. They were sort of stumbling along through their first 100 games or so, but a great stretch beginning in late July put them in 1st place in early August, which is where they spent the next month. They've gone just 5-8 in the last two weeks though, falling back behind Detroit.

The Royals have a fantastic defense and great bullpen, allowing them to contend despite one of the weaker offenses in the league. PECOTA puts their playoff chances at 69.2%.

The schedule: 3 games in Cleveland, plus the conclusion of a suspended game from last month, which the Royals trail 4-2 heading into the bottom of the 10th inning. That game will be finished up before tonight's regularly scheduled game. The Royals then go to Chicago to face the White Sox 4 times.

What they need: Missing out on the playoffs would be a huge disappointment for a fan base that's waited nearly 30 years, but the Royals are in good shape. A 6-2 finish assures KC of more baseball, but even 3-5 probably puts them in a tiebreaker.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners made a big splash during the offseason by signing Robinson Cano to one of the largest contracts in baseball history, and they've already assured themselves of their first winning season since 2009. The goal is the first playoff appearances since 2001 though, and a 4-8 record in their last dozen games has put that in serious jeopardy.

Seattle has a mediocre offense (as usual), but has allowed fewer runs than any other team in baseball, which is quite an accomplishment for an American League team. PECOTA puts their playoff chances at 20.7%.

The schedule: 4 games at Toronto (who is not yet mathematically eliminated, but probably will be today, one way or another) followed by 3 games at home against the Angels (who may or may not still be fighting for home-field advantage by the time this series begins, which could determine what type of lineups they trot out).

What they need: At least a 4-3 finish is probably needed to extend the season. They'll be rooting hard for the Angels early in the week, not only to knock Oakland back in the race, but to increase the chances that they (the Angels) clinch home-field and rest some of their best players a bit during the weekend.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians were a surprised success in 2013, winning 92 games. They were below .500 through the end of July, with terrible defense and mediocre work from most of the starting rotation dragging them down. The rotation has been baseball's best since the start of August though, helping the team post the AL's third-best record during that time, despite weak hitting.

The terrible defense has been a problem all year, and while the rotation has been great during the last eight weeks, the offense has really struggled and the record-setting bullpen has fallen off a bit. PECOTA has their playoff chances at 15.5%.

The schedule: The conclusion of a suspended game against the Royals, which the Tribe lead 4-2 heading into the bottom of the 10th, followed by 3 more games at home against KC. Then, after the team's first off day in a month, 3 games at home against Tampa Bay.

What they need: They've got to go 6-1 to have a realistic chance, and it would help if that one loss didn't come against Kansas City, since that's one of the teams they need to catch.

New York Yankees

Since 1994 the Yankees have missed the playoffs only twice, and never won fewer than 85 games, but an aging core has finally caught up with them, as ineffectiveness and injuries have taken a deep toll on them this season. Through early August they seemed to be overcoming that, and were only half a game out of the Wild Card race, but they've played losing baseball since then.

Going back to August 8th the Yankees are 20-21 and have scored just 3.41 runs per game, worst in the AL (just ahead of Oakland and Cleveland). PECOTA has their playoff chances at just 0.2%.

The schedule: 4 at home against Baltimore (who has clinched the division but is still looking to gain home-field for a possible ALCS appearance) and 3 in Boston (against one of the more disappointing defending champions in baseball history).

What they need: A 7-0 finish and some help from teams like Oakland, Texas, and Chicago. We're almost certainly looking at a second consecutive Yankee-free postseason for the first time in more than twenty years.

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My preference is of course for the Indians to win the top spot somehow, followed by a second choice of them winning the second spot outright. If neither of those things happen though, what I'd like is for Oakland to go 2-5, Kansas City to go 3-5, Seattle to go 4-3, and Cleveland to go 6-1, putting all four teams at 87-75, leading to some sort of crazy tournament to determine which team advances to the ALDS. (Please note that even in my "root for chaos" scenario, the Yankees are not involved.)