The 2014 Major League Baseball postseason is about to get underway with the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, and Los Angeles Angels all clinching berths in the American League, and the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers advancing in the National League.
The San Francisco Giants clinched a wild card berth on Thursday with the Milwaukee Brewers loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The two AL wild card berths have yet to be determined, with the Kansas City Royals and Oakland A’s each with a magic number of one.
There still remains a lot to be determined in the NL postseason schedule. The Dodgers, who won the NL West, could still pass the Nationals, the NL East winners, and finish the regular season with the league’s best record, which would mean they would host the winner of the one-game wild-card playoff, between the Pirates or the Giants. Should the Nationals fail to finish with the best record, they would face the NL Central winner.
The NL Central is still up for grabs. The Cardinals have a 1.5 game lead on the Pirates.
In the AL, two divisions titles have been claimed, with the Orioles clinching their first AL East crown in 17 years and the Angels holding down the AL West after the Oakland Athletics stunning second-half collapse.
L.A. already owns the best record in the AL at 98-61, but could lose home-field advantage throughout if the still-in-it Seattle Mariners have their way. Seattle hosts the Angels for a three-game series starting Friday. Seattle owns the season-series 9-7, and Cy Young candidate Felix Hernandez could be pitching for their postseason lives.
Baltimore is also on the road, facing the eliminated New York Yankees Thursday, and then heading north to Toronto for a three-game series. The Orioles went 10-6 against the Blue Jays this season, and posted an impressive 45-32 record on the road this season.
The AL Central is still very much up in the air, with Detroit already locking up a postseason berth but the Kansas City Royals within striking distance of their first division victory since 1985. The Tigers own a two-game division lead and begin a four-game home-stand against the last place Minnesota Twins Thursday; Detroit thus far has gone 7-9 against the Twins during the regular season.
Kansas City’s last series takes place on the road against the Chicago White Sox, but the Royals won of 10 of their 15 previous matchups this season.
The wild card picture is a little murkier, and there could be some jostling in the final stretch. The Royals and A’s currently lead the wild card race, and if the season ended today they would square off in the one-game playoff for the right to play the Angels in the divisional round.
However the Mariners are three games back of Oakland and Kansas City (both 86-72), and the Cleveland Indians are 3.5 back. Cleveland winds down its regular season with a three-game home-stand versus Tampa Bay starting Friday, and ace Corey Kluber taking the mound on Saturday. In theory Cleveland needs K.C. to lose four straight to the White Sox in order to force a one-game playoff prior to the wild card playoff.
Seattle also needs either K.C. or Oakland to lose three more games to gain any real shot at the postseason.
Assuming the Tigers hold on to the AL Central and L.A. maintains the league’s best record, Detroit and Baltimore would square off in the other divisional round after the wild card playoff has been decided.