With just over one week left in the long slog that is the MLB regular season, the playoff pictures in both leagues are becoming clearer with each passing day. Each of the six division races is all but over, but teams in both the American League and National League continue to claw at each other’s heels in their final attempts to secure wild-card spots. 

In the AL, the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians have firm holds on their respective divisions, and the Texas Rangers have already clinched the AL West title. Meanwhile, the division winners are all locked in for the NL playoffs. The Washington NationalsChicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers will represent the East, Central and West, respectively, after the Dodgers clinched the NL West Sunday evening. 

Now, superstition-fueled history tells us that the San Francisco Giants should be the 2016 World Series champions. After all, they win the Fall Classic every two years, or at least they have on alternating years since 2010. If San Francisco wants a shot at keeping that trend alive, though, they’ll have to fight off the St. Louis Cardinals, who trail the Giants by just a half-game for the second wild-card spot and are 1.5 games behind the New York Mets.  

If San Francisco can snag a wild-card spot, it will enter the slugfest that will be the 2016 MLB playoffs. There will be no easy game or series for the Giants or any postseason team, and the last club standing will have had to prove it is the undisputed champion among the league’s behemoths. 

Let’s take a look at the updated playoff picture and standings.


American League

Perhaps the biggest surprise out of this group is the Indians, who strung together an inspired 14-game winning streak that just so happened to coincide with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ remarkable NBA championship in June. At 90-65 through Sunday’s action, the Indians have left the Detroit Tigers in the rearview mirror as they look to claim the AL Central led by studs such as All-Star Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana

Cleveland acquired reliever Andrew Miller just before the trade deadline from the New York Yankees for a troop of prospects, and since changing teams, Miller has given up just five earned runs in 22 games. He has bolstered an already-impressive bullpen for the Indians.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have just recently run away with the AL East. The Yankees abruptly faded from the playoff picture, while the Orioles and Blue Jays have been relegated to competing for the right to host the AL Wild Card Game. Boston, which has now won 11 straight games, has been buoyed by its trove of heavy hitters, led by the indefatigable David Ortiz (clap-clap, point to sky).

Ortiz, who plans to retire after this season, is absolutely mashing the ball in 2016, hitting .321 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI. During the All-Star break, Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (via Joe Rodgers of Omnisport for Sporting News) he wasn’t sold that Big Papi would actually hang it up at year’s end, although due to his aching body, Ortiz maintains he will retire. 

Despite Ortiz’s monster stats, I’d be remiss not to mention Red Sox standouts Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts. And still, the list goes on, making Boston a serious threat come October in spite of its occasional shaky pitching. 

The Rangers boast an offense that is possibly more impressive than that of the Red Sox. Like Cleveland, Texas took advantage of the Yankees’ mediocrity back in July by acquiring Carlos Beltran. Beltran joined Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor and Ian Desmond in Texas’ potent offensive attack.

Texas and Boston both boast records of 92-64 after Sunday’s games, which is tied for the best record in the American League, so let me clarify why the Rangers are still slotted as the top seed above.

Should both teams finish the season with the same record that is tops among their AL foes, the team with home-field advantage would be the squad that won the head-to-head season series. However, the Red Sox and Rangers each won three of the six meetings this season. Next, seeding is determined by which team has a greater winning percentage in games against divisional opponents. The Rangers hold a slight edge in that category and thus would be the AL’s No. 1 seed if the playoffs began today. 

Lastly, the Blue Jays and Orioles aren’t yet safe in their spots in the standings. The Tigers trail Baltimore by just 1.5 games, and the Seattle Mariners are still only 2.5 games out of the second wild-card spot. Although they currently stand to host the Wild Card Game, the Blue Jays can’t be too happy about not yet securing their place in the postseason this late in the campaign after reaching the ALCS last year.


National League

So, is this the year the Cubs finally exorcise their demons and win the World Series? With a startling record of 99-56 entering the season’s final stretch, the baseball community has to fear the Cubbies this postseason. It is the first time since 1935 that Chicago has posted at least 99 victories, although, as you know, the Cubs didn’t win the World Series that year. 

The club’s offense is led by young guns Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, who have combined for 69 homers and 204 RBI so far in 2016. As for their pitching staff, the Cubs have relied heavily on Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks to win games this year, and they’ve done just that. The Cubs could meet up with the Mets in the NLDS if New York makes it past the Wild Card Game, which would provide a rematch of the 2015 NLCS

Speaking of the Mets, it is their former second baseman, Daniel Murphy, who has continued his postseason magic from a year ago all season long, but now he plays for his old division rival, the Washington Nationals.

Murphy has been more productive than the Nats ever could have hoped during an injury-plagued season for reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper. Murphy is hitting .347 with 25 long balls and 104 RBI and will need to continue to lead the Nationals as they make a push toward World Series baseball. 

Out west, a familiar cast of characters propelled the Dodgers to a fourth consecutive NL West title. Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner have carried the bulk of the offensive burden, and the pitching staff responded well after the departure of Zack Greinke to Arizona during the offseason and even as ace Clayton Kershaw missed some time due to injury. 

As for the wild-card race, the Mets might be the most intriguing story. After a thrilling run to the World Series last year, New York fell flat against the Kansas City Royals. There were times during this season when it didn’t look like the Mets would even make it back to the playoffs, especially as injuries sidelined many of their high-powered arms.

After a 17-0 romping of the Phillies on Sunday, the Mets seem to have caught fire—or at least sparked some embers as the postseason nears. If they can keep it up, they will inspire some panic in their wild-card opponent, which figures to be either San Francisco or St. Louis.


World Series Odds

According to Odds Shark, the Cubs (+300; bet $100 to win $300) are the current betting favorites to win it all. These teams follow: 

Washington Nationals: +500 

San Francisco Giants: +550

Cleveland Indians: +650

Texas Rangers: +750

Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers: +1200

Toronto Blue Jays: +1400 

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