The new postseason rules allow for two wild card teams from each league, with the clubs playing a one-game elimination series before the first round of the playoffs.
The National League playoff picture is pretty much set. Each division has been clinched, and the Braves have the first wild card spot locked up. The St. Louis Cardinals are three games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and will likely be the final NL team to make it.
The American League picture is not as clear. No spots have been clinched, and four teams are within at least two games of the wild card.
Which teams will make it to the playoffs in the AL?
The Rangers are the closest to clinching a postseason berth. They’re four games ahead of the Athletics with just six to play.
Oakland does have a chance to steal the AL West. The two teams face off in the final series of the season. However, with a magic number of three, the Rangers are likely to take the division.
The Central division race may be the biggest of them all, as the loser won’t have a chance to win a wild car spot. The Tigers have a two game lead over the White Sox, and are in perfect position to clinch.
Detroit has an extremely easy schedule down the stretch, with six games against the Royals and Twins. Chicago doesn’t have it nearly as easy. They’re set to face the Rays this weekend.
The AL East is one of the tightest division races in baseball history. The Yankees lead the Orioles by just one game, and neither team has had a lead as big as two games since Sept. 2. Either team could win the division, or even miss the playoffs.
Baltimore currently holds the first wild card spot, while Oakland has the other, one game behind them. Both Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Angels are tied, two games behind the A’s.
New York has the best chance of taking home the division. The Yankees have an easy schedule down the stretch. They face the Blue Jays and Red Sox to close out the year. Boston and Toronto are tied for last place in the AL East.
The Rays are currently out of the playoffs, but they still control their own destiny. Their final three games come against the Orioles. If they can run the table over the final week of the season, they’re guaranteed at least a play-in game to the postseason.
The Angels probably have the toughest road to the playoffs. They have no more games in L.A., and have to play the Rangers this weekend. Los Angeles finishes their season in Seattle.
The 2011 MLB season ended in exciting fashion, with both wild cards being clinched on the last day of regular season games. With so many teams still in contention, the 2012 season could end the same way.