The Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians will carry the fight for the last Major League Baseball playoff spots into the final weekend of the six-month season.
Eight of the 10 berths are already secured for the post-season fight that begins next week, with Atlanta, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Dodgers set in the National League and Oakland, Boston and Detroit having clinched American League division crowns.
That leaves three clubs in the hunt for two wild-card playoff berths given to the non-division winners with the best records.
The Rays (89-69) and Indians (88-70) have each won six games in a row to set the pace in the wild-card chase, with Texas (87-71) the only rival that could overtake either team, sitting a game behind Cleveland.
The Rangers finish with four home games against the Los Angeles Angels (78-80) while the Indians play four games at Minnesota (66-92) and Tampa Bay will finish with one game at the New York Yankees (82-76) and three at Toronto (72-86).
Texas has faded at the finish to jeopardize playoff hopes, beating Oakland on Sept. 3 to grab a one-game lead in the AL West division, then losing 10 of the next 11 games and putting them in a battle for the last playoff spot.
Among those struggling is Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, the major league season strikeouts leader with 269 over 204 innings. He has issued 10 walks in his past 10-1/3 innings.
“Everybody is dealing with something and I’m dealing with something,” Darvish said. “Now that I have thrown over 200 innings, I have done the minimum of my job. I would like to pitch as many innings as I can.”
Darvish is scheduled to start in the Rangers’ final game of the season today against the Angels and the playoff hopes for Texas could come down to how well he can baffle rival batters.
Any tiebreaker games, if needed, would be tomorrow, with the American League wild-card game next Wednesday. That winner would play a series against the team with the league’s best record.
Playoff pairings remain on the line in both leagues. The St Louis Cardinals (94-65) and Atlanta Braves (93-65) lead the National League fight with the Dodgers (91-67) not yet out.
Pittsburgh (91-68) and Cincinnati (90-69) occupy the wild-card spots and their season-ending series figures to decide which club gets the home-field edge for the National League wild-card game on Tuesday.
In the American League, Boston (96-63) has the edge upon Oakland (94-65) and Detroit (93-66) in the chase for home-field advantage in the playoffs.