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We’re definitely into the home stretch of the 2016 Major League Baseball season. There are exactly three weeks (just 21 days!) remaining on the schedule. Teams are beginning to be officially, mathematically eliminated from the playoff race while we’re set to see some clinching here in the next week. In fact, one could happen during this upcoming series.

Closest to Clinching

Not surprisingly, the Chicago Cubs have the lowest magic number. It’s down to five and they could actually double-time it here early in the week due to the schedule (we’ll get to that). Next up are the Texas Rangers (10) and Washington Nationals (11) and the same sentiment actually applies. The Cleveland Indians are at 14 with the other two divisions still seemingly up for grabs.

cubs-912116.jpgWill the Cubs be celebrating in St. Louis this week? USATSI

Who wins the AL East? Here are SportsLine’s latest chances:

Boston Red Sox , 64.2 percent
Toronto Blue Jays , 19.7
Baltimore Orioles , 14.5
New York Yankees , 1.1

Over in the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers are at 83.3 percent over the San Francisco Giants ‘ 16.7.

Every other division leader has at least an 98 percent chance to win. But that doesn’t mean we’re void of some hot races, because …

Wild Wild-Card Madness

The AL playoffs will likely feature the Rangers, Indians and three teams from a group of eight other contenders. The Kansas City Royals are the furthest back of this group, but they are just four games back of the second wild-card spot.

Here’s SportsLine’s breakdown of the chances of being a playoff team (this includes winning the AL East, obviously, and, again, three of these teams will make it):

Red Sox, 94.3 percent
Blue Jays, 79.7
Orioles, 63.6
Detroit Tigers , 22.7
Houston Astros , 16.7
Yankees, 14
Royals, 5.7
Seattle Mariners , 3.4

Over in the NL, we pretty much know it’ll be the Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers and two wild cards, but three teams are jockeying for those two spots and they are in a heated battle.

As things stand:

Giants, 77-65
New York Mets , 76-67
St. Louis Cardinals , 75-67

NL wild card battle involves divisional rivalries

As mentioned above, the Cubs and Nationals both have a chance to get a lot closer to clinching their respective divisions this week. That’s because they are playing the team behind them. The Nationals host the Mets for three games while the Cubs visit the Cardinals for three. I don’t think a sweep is in the cards in either spot, but hypothetically speaking, a sweep in St. Louis would mean the Cubs clinch the NL Central already. A Nationals’ sweep gets their magic number to five.

The flip-side to this is that the Mets and Cardinals are battling each other for a playoff spot. Let’s not forget about the rivalries here, especially the Cubs-Cardinals. The Nationals are 10-6 against the Mets this year, but the Mets are surging right now and swept the Nats last September. These are two very fun series for many different reasons.

Interleague Fun: The Mr. October Bowl

We don’t often see the Dodgers and Yankees meet, but when we do it brings back memories of the World Series when Reggie Jackson garnered his immortal nickname.

Of course, the Dodgers would beat the Yankees in the 1981 World Series, avenging that 1977 (oh, and 1978) Yankees title.

As for 2016, this series is a big one. We’ve already mentioned the Dodgers are being the odds-on favorite in the NL West, but the three-game lead is obviously not insurmountable for the Giants, particularly given that the teams have six head-to-head games left. So every game matters. The Yankees still have an outside shot at the AL East and are totally in the mix in the wild-card battle as well.

Texas-sized dominance

Can the Rangers continue to batter the Astros? The season series right now is 13-3 in favor of the Rangers and now there are a final three games between the two Texas teams. It’s in Houston and the Astros need to win the series in order to keep pace in the AL wild-card standings. In fact, a sweep would be nice. The Astros are finishing up a stretch of 13 straight games against first-place teams. So far they’ve gone 4-6.

On the other side, if the Rangers sweep, their magic number could shoot down to four, depending upon how the Mariners fare in their series against the Los Angeles Angels .

Can the Rangers continue to dominate the Astros? USATSI

AL East war continues

Fresh off the Red Sox-Blue Jays series in Toronto, we get another juicy AL East head-to-head matchup with the Red Sox hosting the Orioles. This could be a beauty, as these two teams have played even so far this year. Overall, only two games separate them in the standings, but head to head so far each team has won six games. The Red Sox have scored 67 runs against the Orioles while the O’s have tallied 65 against the Sox.

The latter two pitching matchups could be fun, even if they look in favor of Boston, as it’ll be Yovani Gallardo (5-7, 5.44) vs. David Price (15-8, 3.87) on Tuesday and Dylan Bundy (8-5, 3.82) vs. Rick Porcello (20-3, 3.21) on Wednesday.

There’s a lot of AL East on AL East crime remaining to be seen this season, but this series will be a factor in the playoff picture for sure.


Source: CBS Sports / Everything you need to know about the MLB playoff picture with three weeks left