As we head into the final weekend of the 2008 baseball season, there are still five teams fighting for three playoff spots.
Three days ago, the White Sox pulled into Minnesota with a 2.5 game lead hoping to put the Twins away. Instead, they got swept and now trail Minnesota by a half game with three left to play. Both teams finish at home, the Twins hosting the Royals, and the White Sox hosting Cleveland. The Royals arrive at the Metrodome on an 11-2 tear, but I give the advantage to the Twins, as the White Sox will have to face Cliff Lee on the final day of the season if the race isn't settled by then, while the Twins will kick off their series with Francisco Liriano on the mound tonight.
Things are even tighter in the National League, where the Mets and Brewers both won in walkoffs last night and remain tied for the Wild Card lead, and the Mets are just a game behind the Phillies in the East, opening up a possibility of a three-way tie for the league's last two playoff spots. The Astros are technically still alive in the Wild Card race as well, but a win by either Milwaukee or New York, or a Houston loss, will eliminate them, likely tonight.
The Brewers face the stiffest competition this weekend by hosting the Cubs, though Lou Piniella was unapologetic about resting some of his starters against the Mets this week. The Mets will host the Marlins in what could be the final three games at Shea Stadium this weekend. Neither the Mets nor the Brewers has a definite starter for Saturday. The Mets have lefty Jonathon Niese lined up, but could replace him with former Yankee righty and 2008 Olympian Brandon Knight given the Marlins' righty-heavy lineup. The Brewers, meanwhile, are hoping Ben Sheets can return from elbow tendonitis to start on Saturday. If not, they'll could wind up starting Dave Bush on three-day's rest. Sunday, both teams will send out their ace: Johan Santana for the Mets, CC Sabathia for the Brewers.
As for the Phillies, they seem likely to hold on to the division as they're hosting the Nationals and will have Cole Hamels going on Sunday if necessary. Of course, as with the Mets and Brewers, using their ace on the final day to secure a playoff spot would prevent them from using him in Game 1 of the NLDS, but you have to make it there first.