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Going over notable matchups in AL Wild Card race for final weekend of MLB season

We break down the key series to watch over the weekend in the American League playoff race, including the tight Wild Card standings.

Aaron Judge #99, Gio Urshela #29, and DJ LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees celebrate defeating the Toronto Blue Jays following their MLB game at the Rogers Centre on September 28, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The American League Wild Card race is indeed wild. As crazy as it sounds, a four-team tie after this weekend is not out of the question! Let’s examine the current standings and predict who will claim the two Wild Card spots after this weekend.

AL Wild Card picture

1. New York Yankees: 91-68 +2
T-2. Boston Red Sox: 89-70 —
T-2. Seattle Mariners: 89-70 —
4. Toronto Blue Jays: 88-71 — 1.0 GB

The Yankees’ roller coaster season is back on the upswing as the Bronx Bombers have won eight of their past 10 games, which included a sweep of Boston at Fenway Park and a series win over the Blue Jays in Toronto. They have opened up a two-game lead for the No. 1 Wild Card spot and will finish the regular season with a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have had a lot of success against the Yanks in recent years, but since they have already locked up home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs, Tampa Bay may not go all out to win this weekend.

The Red Sox must feel fortunate to still control their own destiny after losing five of their past six games. They were widely predicted heading into this week to come away with one of the two Wild Cards, but after losing two of three against the Orioles, all bets are off as to how the Red Sox will fare this weekend against the Nationals in D.C.

If you don’t have a dog in this fight but want to root for one team, you’re probably backing the Mariners, who have a young, exciting lineup and haven’t reached the postseason since 2001 — the longest playoff drought in major North American team sports. The M’s, who have won nine of their past 10 games to grab a share of the second Wild Card, will host the Angels this weekend.

The Blue Jays are on the outside looking in after dropping a home series against the Yanks, which included a loss Thursday with AL Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray on the mound. Toronto needs to take care of business this weekend at the Rogers Centre versus Baltimore and get some help. But as referenced above, beating the 107-loss Orioles is easier said than done right now.

Prediction: It would take quite a collapse for the Yankees to not prevail here. Their magic number to lock up the No. 1 spot is two. They should be fine as long as they can win at least one game this weekend. And then for the second spot, why not the Mariners? They are hot, they are at home, they won’t have to face Shohei Ohtani on the mound this weekend. And the Red Sox will be at a disadvantage against the Nats as they will have to play without the DH. It would be a great story to see the Mariners back in October. It would also lead to mass panic in Beantown, even though Boston has already exceeded the preseason expectations of many this season.

The Blue Jays basically need to sweep the Orioles to have a realistic chance here. It’s certainly possible - they are 11-5 versus the O’s this year — but the odds are against them. According to FanGraphs, Toronto’s chances of making the playoffs currently sit at 13.6 percent.

AL Playoff Seeding

1. Tampa Bay Rays
2. Houston Astros
3. Chicago White Sox
4. New York Yankees
5. Boston Red Sox OR Seattle Mariners

Another reason why the Rays may take it easy this weekend is that they could see the Yankees again next week in the ALDS. These two obviously know each other well, but the Rays won’t reveal anything that might catch the Yankees off guard this weekend. That’s best saved for later.

The Astros lead the White Sox by two games for home-field advantage in the ALDS. The former will host the Oakland Athletics while the latter will host the Detroit Tigers this weekend. Houston is 5-2 versus Chicago this year.