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Few races remain as playoffs begin08/29/2008 3:46 PM ET
By Benjamin Hill / Special to MLB.com
Here's a closer look at what the playoff picture looks like as we head into what will be, for many leagues, the final weekend of the regular season.
(All standings as of Friday, Aug. 29)
Division champions: Durham (South), Louisville (West)
The IL's first-round playoff matchups are set. West Division-champion Louisville will take on South Division-champion Durham, while Scranton/Wilkes-Barre goes against Pawtucket. The only thing left to decide is which of the latter two teams will enter the postseason as the North Division champion, and which will be the Wild Card. The Yankees currently have a three-game lead over the PawSox, and their magic number to clinch the division is two.
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE
Division champions: Iowa (American Northern), Oklahoma (American Southern), Salt Lake (Pacific Northern), Sacramento (Pacific Southern)
There is nothing left to determine in the PCL as all four division leaders have already clinched. In the first round of the playoffs, the I-Cubs will take on Oklahoma, while Salt Lake will clash with Sacramento.
Division champions: Trenton (Northern), Bowie (Southern)
The Southern Division is set, as the first-place Bowie BaySox will play second-place Akron in the first round of the playoffs. In the Northern Division, Portland and the B-Mets are in a fierce battle for the second-place playoff spot. The Sea Dogs are clinging to a one-game lead, with four games left to play. The winner of this race will face the formidable Trenton Thunder in the playoffs. The defending-champion Thunder are 83-53 on the season, the best record in the league.
First-half division champions: West Tenn (North), Birmingham (South)
Nothing to see here, folks, as Carolina and Mississippi both wrapped up second-half division championships this week. The Mudcats will play West Tenn in the North Division playoffs, while the M-Braves face off against Birmingham in the South.
First-half division champions: Arkansas (North), Frisco (South)
There is still plenty to be determined in Texas this weekend. Northwest Arkansas is angling for a playoff spot in its first season as a franchise, and currently leads Springfield by two games in the North Division. The winner of that race will face Arkansas in the first round of the playoffs. In the South, the first-half champion Frisco RoughRiders have a two-game lead over Midland. If the RoughRiders do indeed repeat, then the division's remaining playoff spot will go to the team with the next best overall record. Currently, San Antonio has a half-game edge over Midland in that category. The RockHounds close out the season with a three-game set against Frisco, while the Missions host last-place Corpus Christi.
Class A Advanced
First-half division champions: San Jose (North), Lancaster (South)
San Jose has repeated as North Division champion, meaning that the two remaining playoff spots will go to the teams with the next best overall records. Stockton has already clinched one of these spots, and Modesto has a three-game lead over Visalia in the race for the remaining postseason berth. Lancaster is threatening to repeat in the South, and currently has a two-game lead over the surging Lake Elsinore Storm and a three-game advantage over the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. If the JetHawks repeat, then Lake Elsinore, Rancho Cucamonga and Inland Empire will battle for the remaining two spots. Lake Elsinore currently leads the Quakes by three games and Inland Empire by four.
First-half division champions: Potomac (Northern), Myrtle Beach (Southern)
As in the California League, the two Carolina League's two first-half winners are threatening to repeat in the second half. Potomac and Myrtle Beach both maintain three-game leads in their respective divisions, and could clinch as early as Friday evening. In case of a repeat, the second-half playoff spots go to the teams with the next best second-half record. Wilmington and Winston-Salem are poised to get into the postseason via this route, as both clubs have a magic number of one to clinch a playoff berth.
FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE
First-half division champions: Palm Beach (East), Fort Myers (West)
The FSL's East Division race has turned out to be one of the Minor League's best. Daytona has a half-game lead over Jupiter, and the two clubs play a pivotal doubleheader tonight in the opener of a season-ending four-game series. The winner of this taut race will face Palm Beach in the playoffs. Meanwhile, everything's settled in the West. The Dunedin Blue Jays clinched the second-half division title last weekend, and will face Fort Myers in the first round of the playoffs.
First-half division champions: Lansing (Eastern), Clinton (Western)
The Eastern Division's first-round playoff matchups are set. Second-half division winner South Bend will take on first-half Wild Card West Michigan, while first-half division-winner Lansing squares off with second-half Wild Card-recipient Dayton. Meanwhile, Burlington and Cedar Rapids have both clinched second-half playoff spots. Burlington's magic number to clinch the division is one, which means it's likely Cedar Rapids will enter the postseason as the second-half Wild Card. If this is the case, the Kernels will play first-half champion Clinton in the first round of the playoffs, while Burlington takes on first-half Wild Card Kane County.
SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE
First-half division champions: Lake County (Northern), Asheville (Southern)
West Virginia picked up three games on Lakewood this week, and now leads the Northern Division by a comfortable 3.5 games. The Power's magic number to clinch the division currently stands at two. Meanwhile, the GreenJackets have clinched the Southern Division, and will take on Asheville in the first round of the playoffs.
Class A Short-Season
NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE
Division leaders: Staten Island (McNamara), Jamestown (Pinckney), Lowell (Stedler)
The New York-Penn League season extends through Sept. 6, and there is still much to be determined. The Spinners are on the verge of clinching the first playoff berth in franchise history, as their magic number to win the Stedler Division stands at two. Jamestown and Batavia remain neck-and-neck in the Pinckney Division, where the Jammers currently have a half-game lead. The Muckdogs are in line for the Wild Card, and currently lead the Brooklyn Cyclones by two games in that category. The surging Cyclones have won five games in a row and now trail Staten Island by four in the McNamara Division. Hudson Valley can't be counted out just yet, as they trail by five in the division race and three in the Wild Card.
Division leaders: Spokane (East), Salem-Keizer (West)
Spokane leads Boise in the East by six games, and the two clubs begin a season-ending six-game series on Friday. Obviously, Boise has no margin for error. In the West, Salem-Keizer leads Eugene by one game. The two clubs just split a six-game series, which concluded on Thursday.
Division champions: Pulaski (East), Elizabethton (West)
Pulaski and Elizabethton are in the midst of the Appy League's best-of-3 championship series. Elizabethton won Game 1 on Thursday by a score of 7-4.
First-half winners: Billings (North), Orem (South)
Billings and Orem are both threatening to repeat in their respective divisions. The Mustangs lead Great Falls by two in the North Division, while the Owlz have a 3.5-game advantage over Ogden in the South. If both clubs repeat, then the second-half playoff spots go to the clubs with the next best overall record. In that scenario, Great Falls has a three-game lead over Helena in the North, while Ogden and Casper are separated by two games in the South.
First-half winner: Angels
The Arizona League is not broken up into divisions, which results in a simple playoff format of first-half winner vs. second-half winner. The Giants are currently at the top of the second-half standings, but the torrid Padres are just a half-game out. The two clubs play one another on Friday night, which will be the Giants' final game of the regular season. The Padres, meanwhile, are also scheduled to play the Angels on Saturday. If the Padres win both games, they will be playoff bound.
GULF COAST LEAGUE
Division champions: Phillies (North), Nationals (East), Pirates (South)
In a couple of one-game semifinal playoffs Thursday, the Nationals beat the Twins and the Phillies beat the Pirates. The best-of-3 championship between the Nationals and the Phillies began on Friday afternoon with the Nationals coasting to a 5-1 victory.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.