Four things you need to know about baseball’s postseason picture

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

Note: We're counting down the final days of the MLB regular season — four more — and each day we're giving you a list of important talking points about the postseason picture, which is getting more exciting by the day.

1. The AL Wild Card is what to watch for Thursday (and this weekend, really): All three teams in contention for the AL Wild Card are playing Thursday night, and they're all streaking. The Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians have both won six games in a row and the Texas Rangers have won three in a row. Talking about being focused down the stretch.

The Rays and Indians hold the Wild Cards right now, with the Rangers a game behind the Indians. The Rangers play the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, who just took two straight from the AL West-winning Oakland A's. If Texas can beat the Angels and the Indians lose to the Minnesota Twins, we'll have a tie again. But with four games left for all three Wild Card contenders, things are still very fluid. 

2. The Royals are out: Well, Royals, it was fun. We enjoyed your plight, the whole first-playoff-appearance since 1985 thing. We liked the guy with the belly too. Well, it was fun like it lasted. Maybe next year. Bye, Royals.

3. The only division that needs a champion is the NL Central: With the Tigers clinching the AL Central on Wednesday night, their NL counterpart is the only division without a champ. The Cincinnati Reds are out of the division hunt now. The Pittsburgh Pirates are three behind the St. Louis Cardinals with three games left to play. Duh, duh, duh. Neither team plays on Thursday, by the way.

4. If the playoffs started today: The bracket below shows how things would look.

Pennant races are here. Spend the stretch run with us.
Follow @MikeOz and @bigleaguestew, on Twitter, along with the BLS Facebook page.