Red Sox, Yankees seek East title; Indians and Astros pursue best record; Rockies, Crew vie for WC spot
By Manny Randhawa
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, the postseason picture is nearly complete, with three races left to be determined. One is the race for the second National League Wild Card spot, which the Rockies could clinch with a victory Friday night, coupled with a Brewers loss in St. Louis.
The two others are in the American League, where the Red Sox can clinch the American League East with a victory or Yankees loss, but don't discount the Yankees, who are just two game behind their rivals. And the race for home field advantage through the AL Championship Series presented by Camping World is being tightly contested by the Indians and Astros.
You won't want to miss what has shaped up to be an exciting final three days of the regular season, and you can catch all the action on MLB.TV.
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Here's what to watch for on Friday (all times ET):
Yankees need win to keep East hopes alive: TOR@NYY, 1:05 p.m.
The AL East division title seemed out of reach for the Yankees when they began this final week five games back of the rival Red Sox. But New York's three victories in four games, coupled with Red Sox losses in three of their last four, means the Bronx Bombers are still mathematically within reach entering the final weekend.
Meanwhile, Friday's early afternoon start time in the Bronx creates an interesting scenario: With the Boston's magic number down to one, the Red Sox will likely find out whether they have wrapped up the East title with a Yankees loss -- or whether they need to keep fighting -- around the time they take batting practice in advance of their matchup with the Astros at Fenway Park.
Masahiro Tanaka (12-12, 4.94) gets a chance to immediately avenge a disastrous eight-run outing against the Blue Jays last Friday. Toronto counters with Joe Biagini (3-12, 5.34), who is winless against the Yankees in three appearances (two starts) this season.
Red Sox face scorching Astros' offense in bid to clinch East, HOU@BOS, 7:10 p.m.
The Astros' offense is humming right now, averaging 12.25 runs per game during a four-game winning streak that has them just a game behind Cleveland for the AL's best record. Houston hitters -- none hotter than Carlos Correa (11 for his last 14, with four doubles and three homers) -- will face veteran right-hander Doug Fister (5-8, 4.87). Fister will be making his first start against Houston since 2013.
Fister could be pitching for a spot in Boston's postseason rotation, as the fourth slot behind Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez may come down to a choice between Fister and Rick Porcello. Fister hopes to put the Sox in position to clinch their second consecutive AL East crown with a victory.
The Astros will give the ball to right-hander Charlie Morton (13-7, 3.63). Morton has a 2.35 ERA in four September starts, and makes his second career start vs. Boston (his last was in 2014).
Race for home down to the wire: CWS@CLE, 7:10 p.m.
The race for the AL's best record, which would confer home-field advantage through the ALCS, could go down to the last day of the regular season Sunday. The Indians, entering play Friday, have a one-game lead over the Astros in that department after both clubs won Thursday.
The Tribe wraps up the regular season with three games against the White Sox at Progressive Field, with Trevor Bauer (16-9, 4.28) taking the ball Friday. Outside of a rough start against the Royals on Sept. 15, the right-hander has a 2.29 ERA this month (five earned runs in 19 2/3 innings). In his only start against the White Sox this season, he gave up two runs and struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings on Labor Day.
Chicago has won four of its last five, averaging 5.5 runs per game in the four victories. Mike Pelfrey (3-11, 5.52), who is 0-1 with a 7.62 ERA in six appearances and one start in September, will toe the rubber for the White Sox.
Colorado with chance for champagne on the Rox: LAD@COL, 8:10 p.m.
The Rockies' magic number for clinching the second NL Wild Card spot is two as they open a three-game series to wrap up the regular season against the Dodgers at Coors Field. With a victory over Los Angeles, Colorado could clinch its first postseason berth since 2009 if the Brewers lose to the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Right-hander Chad Bettis (1-4, 5.72 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Rockies. Bettis didn't make his season debut until Aug. 14, when he tossed seven scoreless innings in a win over the Braves. He missed the entire season to that point while battling testicular cancer. After struggling to a 9.15 ERA in five starts from Aug. 25 to Sept. 14, Bettis gave up one run over 4 2/3 innings against the Padres on Saturday.
The Dodgers, who are gearing up for the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile and have yet to set a playoff rotation, send left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-8, 3.47) to the hill. Ryu has been good since returning from the disabled list (left foot) on July 24, posting a 2.42 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 22 walks in 10 starts. He's struggled against the Rockies in three 2017 starts, giving up 11 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings (6.75 ERA).
Colorado's offense has been hot of late, averaging 8.3 runs per game in its last four contests (three wins). Dodgers hitters, meanwhile, have been raking, too. Los Angeles scored 28 runs in its three-game sweep of the Padres in San Diego.
Only one thing left to do for Crew: MIL@STL, 8:15 p.m.
The Brewers need a sweep of the Cardinals as they open a three-game set at Busch Stadium, while hoping the Dodgers can take two of three from the Rockies in Colorado. That result would force a tiebreaker between Milwaukee and Colorado at Coors Field to determine the winner of the NL's second Wild Card spot.
But first things first: the Brewers send Chase Anderson (11-4, 2.81) to the mound against the Cardinals, who were eliminated from postseason contention with a loss to the Cubs on Thursday. His counterpart will be right-hander John Gant (0-0, 3.65 ERA), who makes his second start of the season for St. Louis.
In three starts against the Cardinals this season, Anderson has given up seven earned runs in 16 2/3 innings (3.78 ERA). Since being called up from Triple-A Memphis on Sept. 1, Gant has a 3.00 ERA in five appearances (one start).
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.