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MLB Playoff Picture Update: Craig Kimbrel costs Cubs huge game

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

American League East

The Yankees have already clinched this division.

American League Central

The Indians are in a tight race to get into the Wildcard Game, but they also still have an outside shot at winning this division. Granted, they were going to need some help, but first and foremost they were going to need to do their own job, take care of business and win almost all of their games down the stretch. They hit a roadblock on Saturday against the Phillies, though. After jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the first two innings, Cleveland fell apart in the second half of the game and eventually dropped a 9-4 game. So, the Twins had a chance to gain another game in this division that they are already comfortably ahead in, but they also stumbled. They were tied at five heading into the ninth against the Royals, but then Kansas City put up seven runs in the final frame. That was enough for a 12-5 loss for Minnesota. So, the Twins still lead this division by four games and their magic number is four.

American League West

The Astros, for a second straight day, had a chance to clinch the division on Saturday. All they needed was a win themselves or a loss by the Athletics. For a second straight day, the Astros did not clinch. Wade Miley and the Astros got beat up by the Angels en route to an 8-4 loss. Meanwhile, the A’s are still locked into the wildcard race and that meant bad news for Houston. Oakland jumped out for seven runs in the first and ran away with a blowout victory against the Rangers. The Astros’ magic number remains at one.

American League Wildcard

This has emerged as the top race in baseball for this final week of the year, with three teams all close enough that any order is still possible. We know that the top team, Oakland, stayed hot with a win. Tampa Bay and Cleveland entered the day tied for second, and we know Cleveland dropped their game. We also know the Red Sox had the Rays on the ropes, but Tampa Bay came back for a walkoff win against Boston. So, with that, the Rays have a one game edge over the Indians for that second wildcard spot. Oakland has a two-game cushion over Tampa Bay for the top spot.

National League East

The Braves have already clinched this division.

National League Central

The series of the weekend has been the Cardinals-Cubs series, where St. Louis took the first two games, with each of them being by one run. Chicago desperately needed a win on Saturday as their playoff hopes are slipping away, but an old friend lost it for them. Craig Kimbrel, who has been a mess of late, came on to protect a one-run lead in the top of the ninth. The first pitch he threw resulted in a homer for Yadier Molina. The second pitch he threw resulted in a homer for Paul De Jong. Two pitches, and the lead was in the hands of the Cardinals. They would hold on and take a third straight in Chicago. Meanwhile, the Brewers just continued to play great baseball, winning 10-1 against the disaster that is the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cardinals still hold a three-game lead over the Brewers in the Central, and their magic number to clinch is at five.

National League West

The Dodgers have already clinched this division.

National League Wildcard

This race always looked like it was going to go right down to the wire, but for the first time it is looking like it’s all but wrapped up. That’s not entirely fair, but with the way the Cubs are going it’s only a matter of time. The Nationals scored six in the tenth in their win over the Marlins to keep a grip on that top spot, and we already know what happened to the Cubs and Brewers. The Mets, meanwhile, were still sneaking around as a darkhorse contender here, but they lost a close one to the Reds. So, the Nationals lead the Brewers by one game for the top spot in this race, while Milwaukee now leads Chicago by a whopping three games for the second spot. The Mets fall to 4.5 back.