The final weekend of baseball’s regular season is just about here, and three teams are left fighting for two spots in the American League Wild Card race – the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.
Entering Thursday’s games, the Rays and Indians hold the two Wild Card spots (separated by one game), while the Rangers hang close, just one game behind Cleveland.
It is shaping up to be an exciting, must-see finish to the season, the exact scenario Major League Baseball wanted when it conceived a second Wild Card team.
Both the Rays and Indians are winners of six straight games, while the Rangers have won three in a row, coming off a rough stretch that saw them not only lose the AL West, but currently has them on the outside of the postseason picture looking in.
After finishing their series with the Yankees, the Rays open a weekend series in Toronto while the Indians complete their season with four games in Minnesota. The Rangers might have the hardest path of all, taking on a hot Angels team trying to finish as a .500 ball club. Texas, unlike Tampa Bay and Cleveland though, gets to finish at home.
There is no room for error in this race, especially for the Rangers, who obviously cannot afford to fall two games behind. The Indians are tantalizingly close to hosting the Wild Card game themselves, an opportunity that cannot be taken lightly in a winner-take-all scenario. The Rays simply need to stay the course, but one loss could bring everything crashing down.
Of course, we could be staring down a one-game playoff to play for another one-game playoff as well.
No matter what happens, every game the rest of the way is enthralling television, an extension of the playoff atmosphere that makes autumn baseball so great.
The game has had its fair share of amazing regular season finishes in recent years, but 2013 threatens to be one of the best. Small-market teams are running rampant in stark contrast to a few of the sport’s payroll juggernauts, and the pennant race in both leagues is as wide open as ever.
It doesn’t get any better than this.