Streaking Indians inching toward Astros; Yanks threatening Red Sox
By Chad Thornburg
The 2017 season is winding down, with just 3 1/2 weeks remaining until the postseason begins with the American League Wild Card Game on Oct. 3. The playoff picture remains in flux, however, with a number of spots up for grabs, particularly in the Wild Card races and the AL East and National League Central divisions.
Here's where we stand heading into today:
The Indians continued to surge to the top of the AL standings by beating the White Sox for their 15th consecutive win Thursday. They're now only 3 1/2 games behind the Astros, who were off Thursday, for home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Cleveland's win also lowered its magic number to claim the AL Central to 12.
"It's fun, obviously," Indians manager Terry Francona said of the streak. "It's been a productive road trip, I'll give you that. The winning streak is enjoyable, and I think it's got people's attention, which gives me a chance to brag on our guys a bit, which I love. Other than that, we'll just go play tomorrow. Just makes the games a little more fun because people are watching and they care."
In the NL, Los Angeles still maintains the best record in baseball but has lost a lot of ground ahead of the Nationals due to a seven-game losing skid. The slumping Dodgers have lost 12 of their past 13 games.
American League Wild Card
Minnesota strengthened its hold on the AL's second Wild Card spot with a 4-2 win over the Royals in Kansas City. The Twins rallied for three runs in the ninth to stun the playoff-hopeful Royals. The Yankees hold the top spot, while the Twins trail by 2 1/2 games.
Behind the Twins are the Angels, who are just one game out of playoff contention and resume play Friday in Seattle. The Orioles, who lost to the Yankees on Thursday, are two games back, while the Rangers are 2 1/2 games out. The Royals, Rays, Mariners are also all within four games of Minnesota.
National League Central
Despite beginning the second half with a 5 1/2-game deficit in the division, the Cubs are beginning to pull away in their quest to defend their division crown. They now hold a five-game lead on both the Cardinals, who lost to the Padres on Thursday, and the Brewers, who did not play Thursday.
The Brewers and Cardinals are both contending in the NL's Wild Card race. They're tied at 2 1/2 games behind the Rockies for the second Wild Card spot. The D-backs, with wins in a franchise-record 13 straight games, hold the top spot, putting them in position for home-field advantage in the one-game playoff.
The Yankees are seated atop the AL Wild Card standings, but still could challenge Boston for the AL East crown down the stretch. New York improved its standing behind the idle Red Sox on Thursday by homering four times in a 9-1 win over the Orioles in Baltimore. The victory brought the Yankees within 3 1/2 games of first-place Boston.
If the postseason began today ...
Wild Card: Twins at Yankees
Division Series: Wild Card at Astros, Red Sox at Indians
Wild Card: Rockies at D-backs
Division Series: Wild Card at Dodgers, Cubs at Nationals
2017 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
AL Wild Card Game (1-game playoff): Oct. 3
NL Wild Card Game (1-game playoff): Oct. 4
AL Division Series begins (best-of-5, 2-2-1 format): Oct. 5
NL Division Series begins (best-of-5, 2-2-1 format): Oct. 6
AL Championship Series begins (best-of-7, 2-3-2 format): Oct. 13
NL Championship Series begins (best-of-7, 2-3-2 format): Oct. 14
World Series begins (best-of-7, 2-3-2 format): Oct. 24
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.