We have just over a week of regular season baseball left, and we still don’t know which teams will be facing each other in the postseason.
Three of six divisional races have yet to be decided, while both the AL and NL Wild Card games are far from set in stone. Sure enough, there are plenty of series this weekend, namely those involving the Los Angeles Angels and Milwaukee Brewers, that could turn everything on its head and change the playoff picture entirely.
Long story short, if you want to watch some intense baseball this weekend that could seriously affect how the upcoming playoffs shape up, look no further than the following series!
1 Los Angeles Angels vs. Houston Astros
The Angels are 2.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card spot and are still in the race by the skin of their teeth. The Halos have lost four in a row and were just swept by the red-hot Cleveland Indians, and now have to face the AL West champion Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park this weekend.
It doesn't help that the series kicks off with Los Angeles facing the amazing Justin Verlander, who is 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA since being acquired from the Detroit Tigers, but star outfielder Mike Trout is also batting just .246 this month and has just a pair of home runs compared to his 29 on the season.
This series could not be more important for the Angels. A lot depends on how the Texas Rangers do against the last place Oakland A's and the Minnesota Twins against the Detroit Tigers, but manager Mike Scioscia needs to be prepared for the Astros possibly resting their regulars after just a few innings and take full advantage if that happens.
Otherwise, count on the Angels missing out on the postseason in a heartbreaker. And speaking of the Twins and Tigers...
2 Minnesota Twins vs Detroit Tigers
The Twins just suffered a devastating sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees and now lead the second AL Wild Card spot by just 2.5 games, and are in a prime position to secure their spot in the playoffs against the last-place Detroit Tigers this weekend.
Minnesota got off to a great start with a 12-1 win at Comerica Park yesterday, and the winning ways should continue since the Tigers have lost five of six games and have all but checked out this year.
But the truth is that anything can happen in baseball and given how flat the Twins looked against the Yankees, the team simply cannot afford a loss at any point this weekend. There is no reason why Minnesota should not sweep the Tigers or at least take three of four in Detroit.
Otherwise, every game next week becomes a must-win, and that includes three against the Indians. Simply put, Minnesota needs to dominate this weekend if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
3 St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
The NL Central race is shaping up to be the most intense of all, and the St. Louis Cardinals are right at the forefront. The Cards are currently five games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs for the top spot in the division, but just 1.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies for the second NL Wild Card spot.
St. Louis is also running a bit hot following a three-game sweep of the last-place Cincinnati Reds, and they have another relatively easy series this weekend with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team swept the Pirates at Busch Stadium earlier this month and even though this series is at PNC Park, Pittsburgh is 2-8 in its last ten games.
With Dexter Fowler swinging a hot bat and incredible depth, definitely keep an eye on this series because if the Cardinals can't close the deal, it could be the end for them.
4 Colorado Rockies vs San Diego Padres
Just when we thought the Rockies had the second NL Wild Card spot secured, things took a turn for the worse. The team has not scored in 19 innings and were shut out yesterday by the underwhelming San Diego Padres, who have somehow won four of their last five including taking two of three from the red-hot Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Rockies' short slump combined with the improved play of other teams has their lead for the second Wild Card spot at just a single game over the Milwaukee Brewers and 1.5 games over the aforementioned Cardinals.
The hot-hitting team is surely going to have issues replicating that at cavernous Petco Park, the complete opposite of their home stadium Coors Field, but there is no time for the Rockies to stumble right now. They need to score runs and shut opposing teams down from now until the end if they want to make the playoffs, especially with the Miami Marlins and playoff-bound Los Angeles Dodgers on the docket for next week.
If they can take control of the Padres series and create some distance in the race, then their odds are looking good. Otherwise, it's an uphill battle.
5 Chicago Cubs vs Milwaukee Brewers
This series is vitally important for both teams. The Cubs are trying to clinch their second straight NL Central, whereas the the Brewers are fighting for that last NL Wild Card spot.
Things got off to a rough start last night when Milwaukee blew the lead in the ninth inning and then lost in extra innings, but the Brewers also have home field advantage this weekend. Throw in that the Cubs have had a World Series hangover all year, and this series could turn the playoff picture on its head.
Milwaukee has to treat every game from this weekend and on as a must-win, especially if the Rockies continue to struggle. Pulling off an epic series win against the Cubs would give the Brew Crew a ton of momentum heading into the final week of the season and if the team makes the playoffs, it could be a comeback story for the ages.
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