The Major League Baseball playoffs are starting to take shape with three divisional titles already settled after Los Angeles Angels clinched the American League West last night.
Their title was confirmed on Wednesday night after their victory over Seattle when their nearest rivals Oakland Athletics lost to the Texas Rangers.
The results gave Mike Scioscia’s team an unassailable 11 ½ game lead and rubber stamped their qualification to the playoffs as title winners. The Halos joined Washington Nationals (National League East) and Baltimore Orioles (AL East) as postseason participants, as both won their divisions on Tuesday night.
The Athletics are joint-leaders for the AL Wild Card slots with Kansas City Royals as both possess season records of 83-68. But the Royals could yet make the postseason as title winners as they are involved in a tight tussle with Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.
The Tigers overtook Kansas City at the weekend but with just one game splitting the two it is almost guaranteed that the AL Central will have to wait until September 28 to discover its winner.
The other major Wild Card contender is AL West outfit Seattle who are two games behind the Athletics-Royals combination.
Cleveland Indians (five games back), New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays (both six games back) are all outside contenders but would need to win every game until the end of the regular season to have a shout of the Wild Card.
In the National League, Washington claimed their divisional title with a 3-0 victory against Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.
Apart from the AL East, there is still plenty to fight for.
Los Angeles Dodgers hold an decreasing lead in the NL West over San Francisco Giants, after the Dodgers were smashed 16-2 by bottom side Colorado while the Giants pinched a 4-2 victory over Arizona to reduce the league deficit to just two games.
The likelihood is both sides will make the postseason (the Giants hold an identical season record to NL Central leaders St Louis on 84-68) but the second place side will have to fight through the dreaded one-game Wild Card playoff.
The Cardinals have a similarly fine margin of 2 ½ games over Pittsburgh Pirates at the top of the NL Central division. The Pirates have been slowly working their way into the Cardinals lead so the division looks set for a similar ending as the NL West, with both sides making the postseason, one as title winners and the other as a Wild Card.
The only NL side which could break this is Milwaukee Brewers who are 2 ½ games off the Wild Card spots.
However, realistically the NL Central side are rank outsiders due to their poor form over the past seven weeks, having gone 19-24 since the start of August.
According to MLB.com, if the postseason began today this is how things would shape up:
Wild Card: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals
Divisional Series: Wild Card at Los Angeles Angels & Detroit Tigers at Baltimore Orioles
Wild Card: Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco Giants
Divisional Series: Wild Card at Washington Nationals & St Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers