Division titles all sewn up but fight for WC spots, home field still rages
By Andrew Simon
Despite their loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, the Red Sox clinched the American League East championship by virtue of the Blue Jays' loss to the Orioles. That means that with four days to go on the regular-season schedule, all six division crowns have been claimed.
Still, both Wild Card races rage on, in addition to the fights for home-field advantage, so there is plenty that remains unsettled.
National League Wild Card
The Mets grabbed control of this three-team race on Wednesday, as Jay Bruce and James Loney hit two-run homers in a 5-2 victory at Miami. The defending NL champions stretched their lead over the Giants to 1 1/2 games and also hold the tiebreaker after winning the season series. In other words, San Francisco must finish ahead of New York -- which is idle Thursday -- to claim home-field advantage in a potential Wild Card Game matchup.
The Giants' 2-0 loss to the Rockies at AT&T Park also prevented them from widening their lead on the Cardinals for the second Wild Card berth. Earlier, St. Louis had dropped a tough one of its own, suffering a 2-1 home loss to Cincinnati while going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
The Giants still sit one game ahead of the Cardinals, who won the teams' season series and would host a tiebreaker game in the event they finish knotted up for that second Wild Card spot.
American League Wild Card
Orioles pinch-hitter Hyun Soo Kim whacked a go-ahead two-run homer off Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the ninth inning at Rogers Centre, leading Baltimore to a 3-2 comeback victory. That evened the teams' three-game series and pulled the O's back within a game of the Jays for the top AL Wild Card spot. However, Toronto already clinched the season series against Baltimore, so if the clubs finish tied atop the Wild Card standings, the AL Wild Card Game would be played north of the border.
Meanwhile, on a wet night in Detroit, Miguel Cabrera's tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth inning gave the Tigers a rain-shortened 6-3 win over the Indians, and Detroit remained one game behind Baltimore for the second Wild Card berth. Should the clubs finish tied for that spot, behind Toronto, they would play a tiebreaker game next Monday in Baltimore, which won the season series.
In the lone afternoon game of the day, the Mariners jumped out to an early lead and beat up on the Astros, 12-4, at Minute Maid Park. By taking two of three in the series, Seattle heads into an off-day two behind Baltimore and holding on to hope. Meanwhile, the Astros fell to 3 1/2 games out, just a half-game up on the Yankees, and will be eliminated from the race with one more loss or Orioles win.
American League home-field advantage
It looked as though the Red Sox were going to stay close to the Rangers for the AL's top seed, but then Mark Teixeira's walk-off grand slam handed them a 5-3 loss at Yankee Stadium. With Texas beating Milwaukee, 8-5, the Rangers now hold a 1 1/2-game edge on the Sox and 2 1/2 on the Indians.
Boston's loss to New York also guarantees that Texas will finish with the better intradivision record, earning the Rangers the tiebreaker since the teams split their season series. In other words, the Sox would have to finish ahead of the Rangers to claim home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
However, Texas does not play on Thursday, giving both challengers a chance to pick up a half-game.
National League home-field advantage
The Cubs already locked up home field in the NL Division Series and NL Championship Series, leaving the Nationals and Dodgers to fight it out for the edge in their NLDS matchup. Washington entered Wednesday with a two-game lead in that race but gave Los Angeles an opening by losing, 3-0, to Arizona in a game that was called in the sixth inning due to rain. However, the Dodgers couldn't take capitalize on that opportunity, dropping their second straight game in San Diego, 6-5.
L.A. holds the tiebreaker over Washington after winning the season series, but now must make up two games in four days in order to host Game 1 on Oct. 7.
If the postseason began today …
Wild Card: Orioles at Blue Jays
Division Series: Wild Card at Rangers, Indians at Red Sox
Wild Card: Giants at Mets
Division Series: Wild Card at Cubs, Dodgers at Nationals
2016 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
AL Wild Card Game: Oct. 4
NL Wild Card Game: Oct. 5
AL Division Series begins: Oct. 6
NL Division Series begins: Oct. 7
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 14
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 15
World Series begins: Oct. 15
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.