MLB Playoff Chase Down to Final Stretch

The last week of the season in Major League Baseball could not be more exciting for fans as the hunt for October hits the final stretch run. With three teams already clinching a playoff berth, five playoff spots remain, including four division titles.

On Sunday afternoon, the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Angels both secured division titles, and the Boston Red Sox clinched a playoff berth after Saturday's win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Even though the Red Sox have wrapped up a spot to continue to play in October, they only hold a 1.5-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East. Unless the Yankees falter significantly in the last week (5.5-game lead over the Detroit Tigers for the wild card entering Monday), both teams will be playing for playoff positioning over the final week of the season.

The playoff teams are locked in for the American League, but for fans, the race for the best record will be worth watching. Entering Monday, the Indians hold a half game over both the Angels and the Red Sox. This race has gained more of an importance because Major League Baseball passed a new rule for the 2007 playoffs where the American League team with the best record has the opportunity to choose whether it wants to play an eight-day American League Division Series or a seven-day first round series. This is significant because it allows the team with the best record to better position their pitching staff in hopes to gain an advantage.

The playoff picture, however, is not as clear in the National League. All three division titles are wide open and the wild card has three teams fighting for that one spot. The New York Mets, who scuffled about a week ago, seem to have righted the ship as they won three games in a row heading into Monday and hold a 2.5-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East. The Chicago Cubs hold a 3.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the division crown in the Central Division. The West Division has been a close race all season long, but the Arizona Diamondbacks set the pace with a 2.5-game lead over the San Diego Padres and a four-game lead over the surging Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies may not be able to win the West, but with their eight-game winning streak entering Monday, they have sprinted their way back into the wild card hunt. They are now only 1.5 games behind the leading Padres, and the Padres, who have lost three games in a row at week's end, are barely hanging on as they lead the Phillies by only half a game.

For the true baseball fans, this last week will not be a letdown.

Here is a look at the remaining games for the playoff contending teams:

American League

Cleveland Indians: At Seattle for four games, at Kansas City for three games

Los Angeles Angels: At Texas for three games, at Oakland for three games

Boston Red Sox: Home against Oakland for two games, home against Minnesota for four games

New York Yankees: Home against Toronto, at Tampa Bay for three games, at Baltimore for three games

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks: At Pittsburgh for three games, at Colorado for three games

New York Mets: Home against Washington for three games, home against St. Louis for one game, home against Florida for three games

Chicago Cubs: At Florida for three games, at Cincinnati for three games

San Diego Padres: At San Francisco for three games, at Milwaukee for four games

Philadelphia Phillies: Home against Atlanta for three games, home against Washington for three games

Colorado Rockies: At Los Angeles Dodgers for three games, home against Arizona for three games

Milwaukee Brewers: Home against St. Louis for three games, home against San Diego for four games

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