Tracy Ringolsby

Contenders aim to navigate schedules to postseason

Contenders aim to navigate schedules to postseason

The Cubs are on the way to the postseason, hoping to finally put an end to their 108-year championship drought. Their magic number to officially unseat the Cardinals atop the National League Central is 3.

The Cardinals did assure themselves that the Cubs won't do it at Busch Stadium by beating Chicago, 4-2, on Tuesday night, which delayed a potential celebration until the North Siders return to Wrigley Field for a 10-game homestand that begins Thursday against the Brewers.

And barring some startling development in the next 2 1/2 weeks, the Rangers (magic number: eight) in the American League West and the Nationals (magic number: nine) in the NL East seem likely to secure their postseason bids.

Pulse of the Postseason

However, there remain seven postseason berths to be decided -- three division titles and four Wild Card spots. And thanks to the schedule, the playoff hopefuls have plenty to say about their own destiny.

Standings | Wild Card standings

Cleveland could wrap up the AL Central without any help. This weekend, the Tribe will host the second-place Tigers (six games behind) in a three-game series. The Indians not only are 11-1 against Detroit this year, but their .653 home winning percentage is second best in the AL behind the Rangers. And for good measure, they travel to Detroit for another four-game series to start the final week of the regular season.

Red Sox
The Red Sox are in total control of their destiny. They play 15 of their final 18 games against the three teams chasing them in both the AL East and the AL Wild Card: the Orioles (five), Yankees (seven) and Blue Jays (three). Ten of Boston's final 13 games, however, are on the road, with the lone exception being a three-game series vs. the Blue Jays at Fenway Park to complete the regular season.

Bogaerts' 19th home run

Blue Jays
Toronto faces a seven-game West Coast road trip that includes four games against the Angels beginning on Thursday and three at Seattle next week. Then comes a season-ending stretch of series against the Blue Jays' three AL East rivals -- hosting the Yankees (Sept. 23-26) and Orioles (Sept. 27-29) before a three-game regular-season finale at Boston (Sept. 30-Oct. 2).

The O's have an 11-game homestand coming up that includes a four-game series against the Red Sox, but they begin with four games against the Rays and end with the D-backs making a three-game visit to Camden Yards. Baltimore is 6-7 this year against Boston, with one more game remaining at Fenway on Wednesday, in addition to hosting the division leaders next week. The O's have won 11 of 15 games against the Rays.

Detroit hasn't just lost to Cleveland 11 times in 12 games this season, it has been outscored 79-36 -- and 12 of its runs came in the Tigers' lone victory. They also have a three-game visit from Sept. 23-25 by Kansas City, against whom they are 6-10 this year. The Tigers trail the Orioles and Jays by two games in the AL Wild Card race, but the Yankees, Mariners, Astros and Royals are all three games or fewer back of Detroit. The Tigers have five games remaining against the Twins, against whom they are 11-3, including Wednesday's third game of a four-game series, and three games at home next week. Detroit closes the season in Atlanta for three.

Maybin's diving catch

The Yanks dealt left-handed relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and they were 52-52 when the Aug. 1 Deadline passed. However, the Yankees have gone 25-15 since, and they have won eight of their past 10 games. Including games Wednesday's series finale against the Dodgers, New York will play 15 of its final 18 games against contenders, including seven games with the Red Sox, four with the Blue Jays and three vs. Baltimore to finish the regular season.

The Mariners have played themselves back into postseason conversations with a seven-game winning streak. After a game against the Angels in Anaheim on Wednesday, Seattle has 10 of its final 16 games at home, including a four-game visit from the A's to conclude the regular season. The Mariners face the Astros at Safeco Field this weekend and play in Houston from Sept. 26-28, in addition to the Blue Jays' three-game visit next week. Eight of the Mariners' final 16 games are against non-contenders: Angels (one), Twins (three) and A's (four).

Houston finishes its series with the Rangers on Wednesday, and it has a pair of three-game series with the Mariners -- at home this weekend and at Seattle from Sept. 26-28. The Astros' 10 other games are against the Angels (seven) and A's (three). The Astros have no say over their own destiny, but their schedule is favorable if teams ahead of them falter.

Altuve's solo dinger to left

Nine of the Royals' final 18 games are against non-contenders -- the A's (two), White Sox (four) and Twins (three) -- but they have a home-and-home with the Indians and play three in Detroit from Sept. 23-25. Like the Astros, the Royals' chances rest on teams in front of them going into a major fade.

The Dodgers finish off a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. They then have only six games left against contenders -- three at home with the Giants starting Monday, and three against the Giants at AT&T Park during the final weekend of the season.

A-Gon starts a sweet 3-6-3 DP

The Giants have gone from the best team in baseball in the first half to the worst record in the NL since the All-Star break, and they're battling to get a shot at claiming a World Series championship for the fourth time in seven seasons. San Francisco's bullpen failed to convert a save for the sixth time in its past 10 opportunities on Tuesday night, and the Giants have their challenges ahead. San Francisco will host a Cardinals team that is battling for postseason survival in a four-game series at AT&T Park this weekend, and the Giants have two series remaining against the Dodgers, who have overtaken them for the NL West lead.

The schedule is certainly in New York's favor. After finishing a three-game series in Washington on Wednesday, the Mets don't play a team with a winning record the rest of the season. They open a homestand this weekend that includes the Twins (three games), Braves (three games) and Phillies (four games), and the Mets finish the regular season with three games each on the road vs. the Marlins and Phillies.

Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.