• Standings | Postseason schedule
Sick of the puns? All right, let's move on to this 1-10 scale of just how TENse (last one, promise) these last 10 days will be for each remaining conTENder (sorry).
(Note: In an effort to reflect the randomness we're sure to encounter in these final days, I've listed these teams in absolutely no particular order whatsoever.)
Yep, the Giants broke the scale, because they could still become the first team in history to post MLB's best record before the break and its worst after the break. Dropping that series in L.A. this week (and losing Johnny Cueto and Brandon Crawford in the process) likely ended San Francisco's division hopes. But if the Giants can salvage their week by taking the weekend series in San Diego and taking care of business at home against a Rockies team that struggles outside of Coors, they'll enter the regular-season finale with the Dodgers with the even-year idea still in play.
Blue Jays: 9
Toronto's 7-12 September has all but ended its hope of repeating as division champs, so now the more realistic goal is to reward the 3 million fans who have poured into Rogers Centre this season with a Wild Card home game. It's no gimme, because the Jays have the Yankees and O's coming to town before that final trip to Boston.
Oh, Steven Matz is probably done for the year? Well, hey, what else is new? The Mets have faced news like this all year and are somehow still standing. But they just got swept by the Braves before winning an extra-innings thriller in the series opener vs. the Phillies, so there is danger in assuming anything about their "soft" remaining schedule (a home-and-home against Philadelphia wrapped around a road set in Miami). I'm knocking the Mets' number down to eight, because if they do fall flat, at least they can blame the injury bug.
Red Sox: 4
Having handled arguably the stiffest end-of-season schedule of any contender (Boston entered September with just 10 home games on the docket and 20 games left against clubs with winning records) remarkably well, Big Papi and the boys have whittled their magic number to clinch the American League East down to five. So at this point, it's just about maintenance and seeding. The Sox will travel to Tropicana Field and Yankee Stadium in the next week, but they are a combined 20-12 against those clubs. If worse comes to worst, they've got the home-field edge against the Blue Jays in the final regular-season series.
After this weekend in Wrigley, the Cards close the season with a seven-game homestand. That feels strangely dangerous, given this club's unusual .446 winning percentage at Busch Stadium. An October without St. Louis would also seem strange.
Still clawing their way back from that awful April and running with a rag-tag rotation, the Astros had a huge road trip in taking five of six from the Mariners and A's. Their final nine games come against the Angels (three at home this weekend, three on the road to close it out) and M's (three at home). Obviously not a lot of wiggle room here.
Look, the Yanks have been playing with house money ever since the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and the pressure-free environment brought the best out of this group. Sure, they'll make every effort to inflict damage upon the Blue Jays, Red Sox and O's in these final 10 games (the first four are in Toronto, the rest at home), but, frankly, the lack of external expectations, especially after another loss Thursday, keeps the tension in check.
Losing two of three to the Blue Jays at home (though, given the Canadian influx, it was sometimes hard to tell who was at home) this week really hurt the M's in their bid to end baseball's longest October drought. Now Seattle has a road trip to Minnesota and Houston before closing it out at Safeco against Oakland. Between the history at stake and the lack of leeway (winning eight of 10 might be the low bar for entry here), they're going to be sleepless in Seattle.
Remember when the Indians won their final 10 to land the top Wild Card spot in 2013? Well, as long as they don't lose their final 10, they're in no real danger of squandering their AL Central lead. Having said that, Cleveland lost two-fifths of its rotation this month and is just a .500 club and not very productive (4.04 runs per game) on the road. So there is extra incentive to seal one of the top two AL seeds.
Getting swept by the Red Sox in a four-game set at home this week has put this club in a big bind. The O's have a random Interleague assignment at home this weekend against the D-backs, before ending the season with a six-game trip to Toronto and New York. That road trip obviously has major Wild Card consequences attached to it, and it's worth noting that Baltimore has just a .467 road winning percentage (among contenders, only the Yanks are lower) this year.
At this point, the pressure's not really on the Pirates so much as it is on the other NL Wild Card contenders to not let Pittsburgh suddenly join an already complicated fray. The Bucs close things out against the Nats, Cubs and Cardinals, so a pretty rocky road ahead.
Just. Keep. The. Rotation. Healthy. And try to send Vin Scully off on a winning note.
Fans of the Rangers from Glasgow weren't thrilled with the club drawing Celtic in the Scottish League Cup semis, but these Rangers are still in good position for a favorable road through October. The soon-to-be AL West champs will have to fend off the Indians and the hard-charging Red Sox to keep their top seed, but their last nine games will come against also-rans -- the A's, Brewers and Rays -- with the last six at home.
Sure, the division is in hand, but Washington simply hasn't been playing well of late, and that's not comforting with Stephen Strasburg on the shelf and Bryce Harper slumping amid reports (which the Nationals deny) that he's playing with a bum shoulder. The Nats' lead in the race for the No. 2 seed has taken a slight hit in recent days, so there's definitely incentive to finish strong against the Pirates, D-backs and Marlins.
Detroit has sputtered some in September, including a series loss to Baltimore that could wind up with major Wild Card consequences. The Tigers do have home cooking coming against the Royals and Indians before heading to Atlanta to face the last-place Braves. But Detroit has really struggled against both of those AL Central foes, and Atlanta seems to be relishing its role as late-season spoiler.
The Cubs would surely love to dent the Cardinals' playoff hopes this weekend. Other than that, all good. The real tension is awaiting in October, when it'll be Break the Curse or Bust.