9:48 PM CDT, September 24, 2012
1. Rangers (1): It looks like they have enough cushion to hold off the A's and clinch early enough to get their rotation lined up for a long October run. Geovany Soto could wind up playing in the World Series.
2. Nationals (2): Gio Gonzalez heads into the playoffs off a 20-win season. How good would the A's and White Sox be if they had kept him?
3. Yankees (6): Eight shutout innings by CC Sabathia, return of Andy Pettitte, power surge by Ichiro Suzuki and extra-inning wins over the A's help build momentum for October.
4. Reds (3): Dusty Baker hopes to be cleared to return by this weekend. With a playoff spot clinched, will he give Johnny Cueto a chance to get two more wins and reach 20?
5. Braves (5): Kris Medlen seems like the choice over Tim Hudson to start the one-game wild-card playoff game on Oct. 5.
6. Orioles (7): Looking good in the wild-card hunt even if they can't take down the Yankees.
7. Rays (8): Did they wait too long to start their closing sprint? They have to pass the A's and Angels to reach the playoffs. The rest of the American League would be happy not to face a playoff rotation built around David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, all of whom work against the White Sox this weekend.
8. Giants (11): Won 10 of 11 to clinch the NL West on Saturday. Could face the Reds, and Baker, in the division series.
9. Athletics (4): Had dropped five of six before beating the Yankees on Sunday. Filling Brandon McCarthy's rotation spot has been a problem with Bartolo Colon already gone.
10. Angels (10): It's tough for them to root for Texas, but they need the Rangers to rough up the A's as they push for the final AL wild-card spot.
11. Brewers (13): Baseball's winningest team since late August. Unlikely they can catch the Cardinals, but they are playing the Reds after they clinched, then home to finish their schedule against the Astros and Padres.
12. White Sox (9): Looking ahead to the season-ending series at Cleveland, here are the tentative matchups: Jake Peavy against Corey Kluber, Jose Quintana against Justin Masterson and Gavin Floyd against Ubaldo Jimenez. If a Game 163 is needed, that matchup looks like Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander, in Detroit.
13. Cardinals (14): Six saves in eight days for Jason Motte, who has been helping the defending champs protect the second NL wild-card spot.
14. Tigers (12): Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander are the only Tigers players who are coming up big when it matters.
15. Phillies (15): Domonic Brown's .219 average in September has only added to questions about how he figures into the future.
16. Dodgers (16): Somehow won only 11 of their first 27 after adding Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford's contract.
17. Diamondbacks (18): Rookie center fielder Adam Eaton is showing why the Diamondbacks are likely to trade Justin Upton or Chris Young — maybe both — in the offseason.
18. Royals (21): Won four in a row over the White Sox and Indians without their hitters delivering a home run. The White Sox have to hope they were saving the long ball for the Tigers.
19. Padres (17): Clayton Richard has a shot to win 15.
20. Mariners (19): Michael Saunders has quietly had a very solid season.
21. Pirates (20): Organizational shake-up seems likely after reports that they've been putting prospects through Navy SEAL drills in Florida while the big-league ship was sinking. It's stunning that such a positive season is ending this badly.
22. Mets (25): R.A. Dickey has two more chances to win 20. Who isn't rooting for him?
23. Red Sox (24): Firing Bobby Valentine will be the easy part. Dale Sveum's preference for the Cubs last winter may show that Boston isn't the managerial destination it long has been.
24. Blue Jays (22): Team President Paul Beeston said it has been very painful to see teams like the Orioles and A's seize the moment while the Jays sunk in the standings after a 23-18 start.
25. Marlins (23): Owner Jeffrey Loria might have the only job that is truly safe.
26. Twins (28): Doubleheader sweep of the Tigers on Sunday shows why you should never bet on baseball.
27. Indians (29): They've got a chance to play spoiler. The key is whether their starting pitching gives them a chance.
28. Cubs (27): Two-out, ninth-inning homer by Darwin Barney on Friday only part of a season in which he likely entrenched himself alongside Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo as part of the infield to rebuild around.
29. Rockies (26): The schedule is always too long for some teams.
30. Astros (30): Bud Norris interests the Cubs, among other teams. He's a chip the Astros can afford to shop, but they might want to keep him another year, then see if they can extend him.
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