Where the National League Wild Card battle is now a three-way tie for the two spotsfollowing Tuesday night action, the American League Wild Card fight has six teams who are legitimately within striking distance.
Much as with the NL, those fighting for the AL spots have little chance at taking their respective divisional crowns.
In the AL East, the Boston Red Sox control the race, leading the Toronto Blue Jays by four games with just 11 left to play.
Out in the AL West, the Texas Rangers have the biggest lead of all with a nearly 10-game bulge over the interstate rival Houston Astros, who are 9.5 games behind. The Rangers can clinch as early as tonight.
In the AL Central, the Cleveland Indians hold a seven-game lead on the Detroit Tigers with a dozen left to play. The Tribe have lowered their ‘Magic Number’ to 5 for clinching the crown.
But the Wild Card race in the leaguehas the six remaining ball clubs separated by just three games in the loss column, all still with a legitimate shot at reaching the postseason.
The Blue Jays lead the race with an 83-68 mark, and their division rivals in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles, control the 2nd Wild Card with an 82-69 record.
Lurking just a half-game behind the O’s, one game in the loss column, are the Tigers. The Astros sit two back in the standings and the loss column.
And two more clubs sit just a notch still further back. The Seattle Mariners trail Baltimore by three in the standings and loss column, while the New York Yankees also remain alive. The Yanks are 3.5 game back, but just three in that loss column.
The bottom line is that any quick 2-3 game win or loss streak can completely turn this race on its head, tightening it up even further, or eliminating a couple of the teams by this weekend.
Let’s take a look at each of those six teams involved in the race, breaking down their remaining schedule and sizing up their chances.
The NL Wild Card Game is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, October 5th. But that is assuming the two Wild Card positions are won cleanly by only two different teams.
As it stands now, Major League Baseball simply slotting two teams into a single Wild Card Game in either league might be asking a bit too much in the 2016 season.Three teams are involved in that NL race, at least at this moment. The New York Mets hold the top Wild Card position by themselves with a record of 80-70.
Both the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are tied for the second Wild Card with identical 79-71 records, just a game behind the Mets.
Back at the start of the 2016 MLB season, most prognosticators made the defending World Series and two-time defending American League champion Kansas City Royals the favorites to win their second consecutive AL Central crown.
The Cleveland Indians were considered by most to be in a pack of teams who would be trying to chase down the Royals, with little to distinguish or separate the chances of those division rivals from one another.
But it has been the Tribe who have emerged as the division’s front-runners. Cleveland took over first place on June 4th for what was just the second time this season. They have not relinquished the spot ever since.
The Indians now hold a commanding six-game lead in the standings over the Detroit Tigers with just 16 games left to play. Their ‘magic number’ has dropped to just 11 to clinch the division title.
One of the primary reasons that Cleveland is in this position is the steady, experienced guiding hand of manager Terry Francona.
It has been a somewhat frustrating season for fans of the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies as the club suffers through another losing season down at Citizens Bank Park in South Philly.
However, if the progress of the organization is evaluated fairly and viewed through a common sense lens, this 2016 campaign has been everything that a fan of the Fightin’ Phils could have reasonably hoped.
The Phillies’ win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night to begin a nine-game homestand was the club’s 64th of the season, surpassing the victory total for the entire 2015 season with 18 games still remaining.
It is perfectly reasonable to expect these 2016 Phillies to finish with somewhere around 70-72 wins. While that is still a losing record, it would be nearly a 10-game improvement over last season’s worst-in-baseball finish.
Also during this season, the Phillies pushed their rebuilding program forward
Whether the team is winning or losing, one of my favorite things in the world is making a trip to a Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park, one of the most beautiful and fan-friendly venues in the game today.
However, one thing that I can usually count on is that I am going to spend some money at our gorgeous South Philly ballpark.
Out in the concessions on Ashburn Alley, in the concourse at one of the concession locations, in the Majestic Clubhouse store, or even in the stands with a purchase from 'Pistachio Girl' or one of her cohorts, part of the experience will involve me burning up my credit card and my cash.
I don't usually mind, since these days my wife and I aren't making more than a few visits each spring and summer. But even though we are in a position to afford it right now, are we getting value for our buck?
A new web service, Couponbox.com, was launched in 2015. According to the site's own figures they "helped over six million Americans save money" in their first year of 2015 alone by offering coupons on a variety of products and services at no cost.
This year the site has released their "MLB Stadium Index" for the first time.
The talent has never really been in question when it comes to former Minnesota Twins phenom center fielder Byron Buxton.
Buxton has been a Top 10 prospect in all of baseball by most of the respected resources who undertake such analysis for the last four years, including prior to this 2016 season.
For Baseball America, Buxton was the #2 prospect in the game in each of the past two seasons. He was their Minor League Player of the Year following the 2013 campaign, and was subsequently named as their #1 prospect prior to the 2014 season.
Baseball Prospectus and the folks at MLB.com each had Buxton as their #1 overall prospect prior to both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and then placed him at #2 in the game this year.
Today another major step forward takes place in that rebuilding program with the big league debut in Washington against the host Nationals of the team's likely center fielder of the future, speedy Roman Quinn.
Quinn is a 23-year old switch-hitter who was the Phillies' 2nd round pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of Port St. Joe High School in Florida.
That selection and his subsequent signing began a nearly five-year, level-by-level progression through the club's minor league system.
It is likely that Quinn would have already made his debut at some point earlier in the 2016 season. However, his progress through the minors was delayed multiple times
On Wednesday night, the NL East Division-leading Washington Nationals appeared to be getting even better for the stretch drive as they welcomed back ace right-hander Stephen Strasburg from a nearly month-long stay on the Disabled List.
Strasburg was actually throwing hard and looking pretty great. He then uncorked a wild pitch, appeared to react in pain and then had a discussion with an athletic trainer. That discussion ended with Strasburg leaving the game, and he appeared to be heading directly down the clubhouse. He was covering the bottom part of his face with his glove, which generally indicates and extreme level of frustration.
Nationals fans, and frankly true baseball fans everywhere, expressed genuine concern for the All-Star who has already undergone one Tommy John surgery in his career.
A 2nd TJ surgery was the early speculation by nearly everyone who had seen or heard about the injury
We are now beginning the final four-week stretch run in Major League Baseball, and this marks a great time to take a look at who has emerged as the top postseason contenders.
The last time that I released my MLB Power Rankings was two months ago, as July was about to open and the dog days of summer were just beginning.
Those two long, hot summer months have revealed some teams as true playoff, Pennant, and World Series contenders.
A few others who looked strong in late June have plummeted out of contention, or are struggling to remain barely alive.
One of those teams is the defending World Series champions, the two-time defending American League champion Kansas City Royals, who were ranked 7th as July was set to begin.
Losers of five of their last nine games, the Royals are just five games over the .500 mark, and have fallen 8.5 games behind the first place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central Division, and are four games back in AL Wildcard race. They have also fallen out of my rankings.
Another team riding high at the beginning of July was the very team who our Philadelphia Phillies are meeting right now, the NL East rival Miami Marlins, who were in the #10 spot of my rankings two months ago.
The Marlins suffered the crippling injury to slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, and have fallen below the .500 mark and five games out in the NL Wildcard race. Two months ago, the Fish controlled the 2nd NL Wildcard spot.
The Top Five teams as July opened were, in order, the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals.
All of those clubs have survived the summer, and return to this post-Labor Day edition of my MLB Power Rankings.
I'm not going to say that I told you so because, frankly, I didn't ever say it. But I can tell you that there were many times during this season that I thought it.
I never really bought in to Jeanmar Gomez as the Phillies closer. Was he enjoying success in the role? Yes. Did I like him overall as a reliever, a member of the bullpen in some role? Yes.
But it was never a secret among any serious talent evaluator that Gomez didn't have classic closer stuff. He was given an opportunity early in the season because everyone else who was given that shot had failed.
When Gomez had some initial success, he was kept in the role by manager Pete Mackanin. To his credit, the right-hander then did what he usually has done for the Phillies since signing as a free agent for the 2015 season, he provided professional innings.
As late as mid-August, Gomez was still humming along in the closer role.