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MLB Week 26: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups

Six days. That’s all that’s left out of the six-month grind that is the Major League Baseball regular season.

Ron Washington
Ron Washington

Sep 23, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington (38) looks on from the dugout before the baseball game against the Houston Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Six days. That’s all that’s left out of the six-month grind that is the Major League Baseball regular season. And there’s still a lot on the line for teams, players, and managers. So here is what you should be watching for over this last week of the MLB regular season.

On to the Playoffs – With less than a week to go in the year, the lights have all but been turned off for most teams’ postseason chances. Of the squads that do not currently hold a playoff spot, only four still have a mathematical chance at earning a berth, and they are all in the American League. The Rangers, Royals, Yankees, and Orioles are all looking up at the Rays and Indians. Texas is the nearest to Cleveland for the second wild card spot at 1.5 games back, while the rest are 3.5, 4.0, and 5.0, respectively. It will be tough for anyone but the Rangers to get back in it, and even then, they’ll have to turn around what’s been a dismal run this month. Additionally, the Tigers will clinch the A.L. Central this week, and the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates must fight out the N.L. Central and wild card situations. All of these questions will be answered by Sunday.

Seats Getting Warm – With the end of every season comes the annual managerial watch. At this point in the year, rumors start to fly about the skippers who may not survive the next week. Topping that list is the Rangers’ Ron Washington. After consecutive trips to the World Series, Texas was knocked out of the playoffs in last year’s wild card game and, in the midst of a 5-15 September, the team is on the verge of missing out of the postseason this year altogether. Because of that, Washington could be on the way out. Others who could be on the chopping block include the Cubs’ Dale Sveum, the Mariners’ Eric Wedge, the Angels’ Mike Scioscia, and the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire. It would hardly be a shock if any of these chips fall before the weekend is through.

League Leaders and Milestones – At the end of this week, the winners of all of the Major League stat categories will be settled. In the American League, Chris Davis will be the only one standing between Miguel Cabrera and his second consecutive Triple Crown. Davis is far and away the MLB home run leader with 52, while Cabrera will take the batting title again and currently leads Chris Davis by one RBI. In the N.L., Paul Goldschmidt could take both the home run and RBI titles, while Michael Cuddyer leads for the batting crown by seven points. In pitching categories, Jordan Zimmermann will attempt to become the Majors’ only 20-game winner besides Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw will look to finish the year with a sub-2.00 ERA, and Craig Kimbrel tries to eclipse the 50-save mark for the first time.

Matchups of the Week – Outside of the chase for the top seeds in each league (though the Red Sox have pretty much wrapped that up in the A.L.), there are really just three races left to pay attention to: the N.L. Central and the A.L. and N.L. wild cards. The Cardinals have the edge in the Central by two games and also have a favorable final series. Meanwhile, the Reds and Pirates are tied with 90 wins and play their final series against each other. Those three games will be crucial in determining which team will host the winner-take-all wild card game, assuming St. Louis ends up claiming the Central. Here are the remaining schedules for all the teams with something left to fight for.

Series of the Week

Tigers – 2 at Twins, 3 at Marlins

Rays – 3 at Yankees, 3 at Blue Jays

Indians – 2 vs. White Sox, 4 at Twins

Rangers – 2 vs. Astros, 4 vs. Angels

Royals – 2 at Mariners, 4 at White Sox

Yankees – 3 vs. Rays, 3 at Astros

Orioles – 3 vs. Blue Jays, 3 vs. Red Sox

Cardinals – 2 vs. Nationals, 3 vs. Cubs

Reds – 2 vs. Mets, 3 vs. Pirates

Pirates – 2 at Cubs, 3 at Reds

Pitching Matchups of the Week

Tuesday – Matt Moore (TB) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY), Gio Gonzalez (WAS) vs. Michael Wacha (STL)

Wednesday – Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) vs. Shelby Miller (STL)

Thursday – Alex Cobb (TB) vs. Ivan Nova (NYY)

Friday – Clay Buchholz (BOS) vs. Scott Feldman (BAL), A.J. Burnett (PIT) vs. Mat Latos (CIN), Cliff Lee (PHI) vs. Julio Teheran (ATL), James Shields (KC) vs. Chris Sale (CWS), Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs. Patrick Corbin (ARI)

Saturday – Jon Lester (BOS) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL), Jeff Locke (PIT) vs. Homer Bailey (CIN)

Sunday – John Lackey (BOS) vs. Chris Tillman (BAL), Charlie Morton (PIT) vs. Bronson Arroyo (CIN), Jeff Samardzija (CHC) vs. Adam Wainwright (STL)

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