The Week Ahead: It's clinching time

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rivera_yanks_090927.jpgThe New York Yankees are in. The St. Louis Cardinals, too. The Los Angeles Dodgers are assured at least the NL wild-card slot, and will soon be celebrating a division title. And these traditional powers are about to have a lot more company very soon.

What’s left in baseball’s playoff races? Not a whole lot, really.

[Breakdown of playoff races  |  Standings] 

The Texas Rangers, hanging on by a thread in both the AL West and wild-card races, essentially have to run the table this week and receive a ton of help to even have a chance. They open the week with a four-game series against the Angels, and any loss in that series will end their division hopes.

In the wild-card race, the Boston Red Sox can clinch by going just 2-5 this week – even if the Rangers win out.

In the NL, the Phillies can clinch the NL East with a 3-4 week – even if the Braves run the table — and the aforementioned Dodgers can clinch the West with a mere two wins this week – no matter what the second-place Colorado Rockies do.

That leaves only two races with any sort of drama left, the NL wild card and the AL Central. In the NL, the Atlanta Braves have ridden a 5-game winning to move within 2 ½ games of the leading Rockies. And there is reason for hope in Atlanta. If the Braves can get past the Marlins in the early part of the week, they finish with four games at home against the Washington Nationals, whom they just swept by a combined score of 21-9.

Colorado has a much tougher road, with three games at home against Milwaukee before heading to Los Angeles for three games against the Dodgers. L.A. is 12-3 against Colorado this season.

In the AL Central, the Tigers are trying to fend off the Twins, who are hanging two games back as the teams enter a four-game series on Monday in Detroit. A split would put Detroit in good shape, as the Twins would then almost certainly need a weekend sweep against Kansas City – and they’ll face leading AL Cy Young contender Zack Greinke on Saturday.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Marlins at Braves, Sept. 28-30: The Marlins are pretty much cooked, but they Braves still have an outside chance of catching the Rockies for the NL wild card spot. Florida wouldn’t mind playing spoiler

Rangers at Angels, Sept. 28-Oct. 1: The Rangers haven’t been eliminated yet from either the AL West or wild card races. That being said, anything less than a four-game sweep of the Angels spells doom. The drama here could end real quickly.

Twins at Tigers, Sept. 28-Oct. 1: This is pretty much it for the Twins, who trail Detroit by two games heading into this four-game series. If Minnesota doesn’t win at least three, you can pretty much give Detroit the division.

Royals at Twins, Oct. 2-4: As we said above, Greinke and the Royals get a chance to play spoiler here. And Greinke has something to play for, too, as he aims to grab as many wins as he can to impress Cy Young award voters.

Rockies at Dodgers, Oct. 2-4: The Atlanta Braves must look at this series and think “Ahah. We have hope.” While Atlanta will be playing the lowly Washington Nationals, Colorado draws Los Angeles. Colorado is 3-12 against the Dodgers this season. The Braves must just make sure they are close enough heading into the weekend.

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If you Twitter, you can find me there at @Bharks.

Gary Sanchez hits 20th homer, ties 86-year-old record

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 26: Gary Sanchez #24 of the New York Yankees rounds first base on a 2-RBI double during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on August 26, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez blasted a two-run home run off of Red Sox starter David Price in the bottom of the first inning of Tuesday night’s game. It’s his 20th homer of the season, tying a record held by Wally Berger for the fastest to 20 homers, per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Both did so in 51 career games. Berger did so with the Boston Braves in 1930.

Sanchez came into Tuesday’s game hitting a ridiculous .315/.388/.690 with 19 home runs and 40 RBI in 209 plate appearances. He’s a big reason why the Yankees are still in contention for the American League Wild Card despite selling at the trade deadline.

Video: Sen. Marco Rubio pays his respects to Jose Fernandez

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 29:  Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is seen as he stops to thank volunteers at a phone bank on the final day before the Florida primary election on August 29, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Rubio is facing off against Carlos Beruff for the Republican primary.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) paid tribute to late Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez by recounting his life story and explaining the impact the right-hander had on his family, his community, and baseball fans.

No matter your politics, we can all recognize Rubio’s tribute to Fernandez as heartfelt and true.