Now that the St. Louis Cardinals have clinched the NL Central, the six division winners are set along with eight of the 10 playoff berths. Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Texas are competing for the final two — the AL wild cards.
With two days left in the regular season — barring any AL tiebreaker games — a quick look at baseball’s playoff picture:
BUBBLY TIME: The Cardinals clinched their first division title since 2009, beating the Chicago Cubs 4-0 behind the strong pitching of Lance Lynn and home runs by David Freese and Matt Holliday.
BOOK THOSE FLIGHTS: Atlanta and St. Louis both open the NL division series at home on Thursday, and the Los Angeles Dodgers will be on the road. In the AL, Boston and Oakland will open the AL division series at home on Friday, and Detroit will be away. Opponents for all are still to be determined.
ALL TIED UP: Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera both had two doubles and Jason Kipnis was a homer short of the cycle as Cleveland took a 7-0 lead in a 12-6 win at Minnesota. The Indians tied for the wild-card lead with Tampa Bay, which lost to R.A. Dickey 6-3 in Toronto, ending their seven-game winning streak. Texas is a game back after winning its fifth straight, 5-3 over the Los Angeles Angels.
TWO-DAY TIEBREAKER: Tampa Bay decided it would rather have two chances to earn an AL wild-card berth rather than a home game in the event of a three-way tie. Cleveland would host the Rays in a tiebreaker game Monday if there is a three-way deadlock for the two AL berths, and the loser would play at Texas on Tuesday for the second spot in the postseason.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Pirates are one win away from hosting a playoff game. Marlon Byrd had three hits and Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run homer high off the batter’s eye in Pittsburgh’s 4-1 win over Cincinnati — its opponent in the wild-card round. The Pirates need to win one of two games at the Great American Ballpark this weekend to bring postseason baseball to Pittsburgh for the first time since 1992. The wild-card playoff is Tuesday night.