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MLB Playoff Picture Update: The Rays and A’s take control in the AL Wildcard

Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

American League East

The Yankees are about to start a four-game set in Boston that is obviously much more important to the now-desperate Red Sox, but represents a chance for the Yankees to essentially finish off their division crown early. In preparation for this series, they were off on Thursday. That did give the second-place Rays a chance to gain a little bit of ground as they held on for a two-run victory over the Blue Jays. Tampa Bay is still 9.5 behind the Yankees in the division with New York having a magic number of 12.

American League Central

Well, we know what happened for the division leaders and it sucked. The Red Sox pitching staff somehow worked around nine walks to only allow two runs in this game, but the offense got absolutely nothing going against Martín Pérez and company. They had a chance to tie the game in the ninth but Rafael Devers was thrown out at the plate as the potential tying run in a gut-punch of an ending. Meanwhile, Cleveland suffered another setback of their own as the White Sox walked all over them in a 7-1 victory. They Twins now pushed their lead in the division to a whopping 6.5 games.

American League West

The Astros, like the Yankees, are running out the clock for their division. They were able to keep up their pace with a wild comeback victory against the Mariners that ended with a walkoff shot from Michael Brantley in the 13th inning. Meanwhile, the A’s took care of business on their own side with a win over the Angels that was fueled by a wild seven-run seventh inning. The result is Houston’s lead in the division staying at nine games.

American League Wildcard

On Thursday, the two teams holding the cards in the top two spots took care of business while the two teams chasing them could not. The Red Sox and the Indians each dropped a game further out with the Rays and A’s both picking up victories. Cleveland is now a game out of the playoffs while the Red Sox move to 6.5 out with an elimination number of 17.

National League East

The Braves have been holding a firm lead in this division for months now despite the National being red-hot alongside Atlanta. The two meet for a huge series this weekend and what is likely Washington’s last-ditch effort to come back in the division. They couldn’t get it done in the first game of this series, with the Braves getting a huge start from Max Fried to help lead to a 4-2 victory. The win pushed Atlanta’s lead in the East to eight games.

National League Central

In what looked like the most exciting division race in baseball just a week or two ago, the Cardinals just have refused to lose of late and are holding tightly onto their lead here. St. Louis obliterated the Giants on Thursday with a 10-0 victory. Meanwhile, the two teams chasing the Cards play each other in a big weekend series. The Cubs took the first game against the Brewers as Kyle Schwarber’s grand slam in the seventh sealed the deal. The Cardinals have a 2.5-game lead over Chicago while the Brewers fall to 7.5 back in the division.

National League West

This is almost certainly going to be the first division to be wrapped up this year, and both teams were off on Thursday. The Dodgers still lead the Diamondbacks by 18 games with a magic number of four to clinch.

National League Wildcard

With the Nationals having lost their second in a row and the Cubs winning again on Thursday, the gap between the top two teams fighting for home field shrunk to just two games last night. Meanwhile, the teams chasing them who were in action had rough nights. We already mentioned the Brewers losing and the Phillies did the same, giving up a walkoff homer to Phil Ervin in the bottom of the eleventh to finish off the L. The Diamondbacks now move up to third place in this race, 3.5 behind the Cubs. The Phillies are four games out while both the Brewers and Mets are five games back.