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We’re entering the final days of the MLB regular season, and as usual, the Wild Card races are coming down to the wire.
While the American League race has been characterized by a crowded, clustered field of evenly matched teams, the National League race has been much easier to make sense of, with two squads from the West division maintaining a significant advantage over the chasing pack for most of the season.
In the end, only two from each league will advance to a one-game playoff, and both races have the potential to provide intrigue until the very last day.
Most teams have just three series remaining on the schedule, so this is the perfect time to take stock of the remaining Wild Card contenders. Below, check out our breakdown of the best second- and third-place teams in baseball, starting with the American League.
New York Yankees
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Upcoming opponents: Toronto Blue Jays (two series), Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals (one-game makeup)
FanGraphs postseason odds: 100%
Key stat: 811 runs scored, the second-most in baseball
One thing to know: After missing out in 2016, the Yankees are on the brink of clinching their first postseason berth in two years. In a tacit rejection of the team’s spend-happy past, young players like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino have been a huge reason for that success.
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Upcoming opponents: Detroit Tigers (two series), Cleveland Indians
FanGraphs postseason odds: 73%
Key stat: 59-103 record in 2016, the worst in baseball
One thing to know: No team has ever lost 100 games in a season and gone on to make the playoffs the following year. With a 2.5 game lead over their closest pursuers, the Twins have a great chance to become the first.
Los Angeles Angels
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Upcoming opponents: Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners
FanGraphs postseason odds: 15%
Key stat: 105 games played for Mike Trout
One thing to know: The Angels’ roster is as top-heavy as it gets. It features three superstars in Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, and Justin Upton, but the rest of the lineup is simply unimpressive.
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Upcoming opponents: Oakland Athletics (two series), Houston Astros
FanGraphs postseason odds: 6%
Key stat: 9 players with 17 or more home runs
One thing to know: The Rangers did severe damage to their postseason hopes by going 1-7 between September 9 and September 16, but with four consecutive victories since then, they’re hanging on by a thread.
Kansas City Royals
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Upcoming opponents: Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees (one-game makeup)
FanGraphs postseason odds: 5%
Key stat: .312 on-base percentage, last in the American League
One thing to know: With Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar all set to become free agents, this is the last chance for the Royals’ World Series-winning core to bring another Commissioner’s Trophy home to Kansas City.
Now that we’ve taken a look at the Wild Card hopefuls in the American League, let’s check out the National league contenders.
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Upcoming opponents: Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals
FanGraphs postseason odds: 100%
Key stat: Rank second in the National League in ERA and strikeouts
One thing to know: The Diamondbacks are set to make just their second postseason appearance in the last decade. The team’s two superstars, Zack Greinke and Paul Goldschmidt, have been outstanding, while Robbie Ray looks like the game’s next great strikeout pitcher.
- Dustin Bradford/Getty
Upcoming opponents: San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers
FanGraphs postseason odds: 58%
Key stat: 2-6 record since September 13
One thing to know: While the Rockies have been in playoff position for about as long as the Diamondbacks, they simply haven’t been able to pull away from the pack. It took years to develop a pitching staff capable of winning games in Coors Field, so they won’t want to waste this opportunity.
St. Louis Cardinals
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Upcoming opponents: Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers
FanGraphs postseason odds: 23%
Key stat: .389/.463/.833 slash line for Dexter Fowler since September 1
One thing to know: The Cardinals found production in some unexpected places this season. Relatively unheralded position players Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong are the team’s top two home run hitters, and 23-year-old starter Luke Weaver has been a revelation on the mound.
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Upcoming opponents: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals
FanGraphs postseason odds: 20%
Key stat: 215 home runs, most in the National League
One thing to know: The Brewers weren’t expected to contend this year, but thanks to a potent combination of power and speed – they lead the league in stolen bases as well as homers – they’ve been in the thick of the playoff race from the beginning of the season.
Now check out which players have made the most money in their careers.
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