Angels, Astros remain locked in Wild battle

Angels, Astros remain locked in Wild battle

The Angels and Astros are embroiled in a touch-and-go battle for the American League's second Wild Card slot, and Los Angeles will have a chance to gain ground Thursday. Houston is off, while the Angels will kick off a four-game series against Texas, the first-place club in the AL West.

The Angels are still alive in the division race and can take home the West title with a series sweep over the Rangers, but the Wild Card may be winnable with something less than four wins. Rookie Andrew Heaney will start for the Angels on Thursday.

The Rangers, meanwhile, are trying to protect their hard-won division lead and will have home-field advantage in their final series. Southpaw Derek Holland will get the ball Thursday, and he has an 8.59 ERA in his last four starts. Holland has made six home starts this year, posting a 5.29 ERA.

Postseason Picture

Here are a few other matchups and games to look forward to Thursday.

Grudge match -- BOS @ NYY 7:05 p.m. ET
The Red Sox have been eliminated, but they're quietly putting together a strong second half to climb back close to the break-even mark. The Yankees, meanwhile, are trying to get their loose ends tightened up in time for the playoffs, and the Red Sox would love to spoil their momentum.

CC Sabathia will get the ball for New York, and he'll be trying to add a solid final start to another frustrating season. This season will mark the first time in the six-time All-Star's distinguished career that he's posted a losing record while making at least 20 starts.

Boston will go with veteran southpaw Rich Hill in the series finale, and he's notched a 2-0 record and a 1.17 ERA in three big league starts this season. Hill was released by the Nationals in June and briefly pitched in the Independent League before reviving his career with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Coronations -- KC @ CWS, 8:10 p.m. ET
The Royals have already clinched their first division title since 1985, and now they're playing to stay hot in the postseason. Kansas City went all the way to the World Series after qualifying as a Wild Card team last season, and now it's hoping to parlay its division title into a return trip to the Fall Classic.

The Royals are one of only three AL teams with 50 wins at home this season, and they need to finish strong to wrap up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Kris Medlen will go for Kansas City in the series finale, and he'll take a 5-2 record and a 4.30 ERA into his final start of the regular season.

The White Sox have already clinched their third straight losing season, and John Danks will have a favorable matchup in his finale. Danks has been much better at home (3.45 ERA in 14 starts) than on the road (5.61 in 15 starts) this year, and he's 10-2 with a career 2.57 ERA against the Royals.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.