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MLB Wild Card Standings: Projecting the standings with four days left

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USA Today Sports

MLB Wild Card Standings: Projecting the standings with four days left

CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST UPDATE ON THE AMERICAN LEAGUE AND NATIONAL LEAGUE WILD CARD RACES

Wednesday night was key in determining the final teams that will be playing in the MLB Postseason. A Wild Card spot was clinched and another is all but over.

Beating the Cardinals 5-1 in St. Louis, the Chicago Cubs claimed the National League Central crown for back-to-back seasons. Now only the American League East remains the only undecided division.

The Twins also will be heading to the MLB postseason this year due to a loss by the Angels against the Chicago White Sox. Minnesota will take the second Wild Card spot in the American League.

While their continues to be battles for positioning and home field in the American League, playoff races are all but over in baseball.

Only one spot in the postseason remains open and that is the second Wild Card in the National League, which is currently occupied by the Rockies.

NEW MLB BRACKET PROJECTION WITH ONE WEEK TO GO

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Unable to take the second Wild Card after their 4-2 loss in Cleveland, the Minnesota Twins (83-75) had to wait for the Los Angeles Angels (78-80) to lose. Going into extra innings, the Angels eventually fell to the White Sox 6-4

Nicky Delmonico hit a walk-off two-run home run in the tenth inning for Chicago. Sending the White Sox’s division rival to the postseason for the first time since 2010.

Delmonico’s long ball would also end any hope for the Angels to make the postseason.

Minnesota cannot catch New York and are locked to be the visiting team in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

There are still two races that remain in the American League. Both the AL East and American League home field is still open.

The New York Yankees (89-69) did not gain any ground on the Boston Red Sox (92-66), with both teams winning on Tuesday. Still ahead by three games, the Red Sox’s magic number for the East division is two with four games to go.

In no relation to the Wild Card, Cleveland and Houston are in a heated battle for the top seed and home field in the American League. The Indians are only one game ahead of the Astros. Tiebreaker would go to Cleveland if the two teams were to remain tied at the end of the year.

AL WILD CARD RACE (AS OF SEPT 28):

New York Yankees:     +6.0 
Minnesota Twins:           ---
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

In short, the Rockies won, Brewers lost, and Cardinals lost.

On Wednesday, the Colorado Rockies (86-73) solidified the spot as the potential third NL West team heading into the postseason. Meeting up with another big hitting team, them and the Marlins combined for 24 runs in a single game. The Rockies won the dual and might as well take the Wild Card with them.

Being shut out, at home by the Reds, the Milwaukee Brewers (83-75) have nearly killed their shot at the MLB postseason. Now back by 2.5 games, it is a dire situation by Milwaukee after such a promising first half of the year.

Colorado’s series with the Padres is done and today is the final off day of the regular season for them. Up next are the Dodgers who currently have nothing to play after wrapping up the No. 1 seed and holding a 2.5 game lead over Cleveland for overall home field in the World Series. Milwaukee finishes their series with the Reds tonight before traveling to St. Louis for three games to end the year.

The tiebreaker between the two teams would go the way of Colorado if they were to tie at the end of the regular season.

The St. Louis Cardinals (82-76) are holding on to dear life after falling to the Cubs last night. Now back 3.5 games, the Cardinals have to win every game the remainder of the way. First it’s the Cubs again tonight, then three against the Brewers.

Updating odds on the NL Wild Card, FanGraphs.com has Colorado at a 95.2 percent chance of taking the final postseason spot.  Milwaukee, shot their chances, falling to only 4.0 percent and St. Louis has a faint 0.7 percent to claim the second Wild Card.

MORE NATS: DUSTY BAKER IS NOT LOOKING AHEAD TO CUBS, WANTS TO FINISH SEASON STRONG

NL WILD CARD RACE (AS OF SEPT 28):

#4 Arizona Diamondbacks:  +6.0
Colorado Rockies:                   ---
Milwaukee Brewers:              -2.5
St. Louis Cardinals:               -3.5    

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

HOUSTON (AP) -- Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series record 22 -- with two possible more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball's best.

After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.

"The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls," Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. "They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, `Hey, something is different here.' I think as a whole, everybody is saying, `Whoa, something is a little off here.'"

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5's seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 13-12, 10-inning Astros' win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.

Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: "Obviously, the balls are juiced."

Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.

"I haven't personally noticed anything. I haven't tried to think about it either," Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5. "It's not something you want to put in your own head."

Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason Sunday.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Kershaw said. "I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I'm not going to worry about it."

This year's long ball assault topped the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.

Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 All-Star break.

"I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it's been consistent," said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. "I think that just has to do with conditions -- if it's colder it's going to be slicker. If it's a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you're going to find that you're going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs."

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.

"I'm absolutely confident that the balls that we're using are within our established specifications," he said Friday.

Verlander rejected that assertion.

"I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true," he said.

Verlander also does not think it's an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.

"I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played," he said. "I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing."

On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, "I'm cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it's become a topic of conversation in the game, and it's something that we're going to have to continue to monitor and study."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

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