First Pitch: Playoff push hits Fenway

The wild card is still right in front of the Yankees. All they need to do is win two of three this weekend in Boston and they may have the clearest path to the postseason of any of the teams vying for the second wild card.

If they get really hot, they might even overtake the Rangers atop the wild-card standings. They are just three back of the struggling Rangers, while they remain one game behind the Rays for the second spot.

But they must take care of business in Boston first, which means winning at least one, if not more. After that, their talent, experience and easy schedule might make them a favorite with slightly more than two weeks to go.

So let's look at the schedule and project the finish:

New York Yankees (79-68, .537)

at Red Sox (3)

at Blue Jays (3)

Giants (3)

Rays (3)

at Astros (3)

Schedule Takeaway: They finish on the road, but the Yankees play last-place teams in nine of their final 15 games.

Final Forecast: 10-5

Predicted Finish: 89-73

Texas Rangers (81-64, .559)

A's (3)

at Rays (4)

at Royals (3)

Astros (3)

Angels (4)

Schedule Takeaway: The Rangers are playing poorly, and their schedule over the next 10 games is challenging enough that they could blow this thing.

Final Forecast: 10-7

Predicted Finish: 91-71

Tampa Bay Rays (79-66, .545)

at Twins (3)

Rangers (4)

Orioles (4)

at Yankees (3)

at Blue Jays (3)

Schedule Takeaway: The Rays must get fat on the Twins and then just need to win series against the Rangers and the Orioles to set up a showdown in the Bronx in what will be Mariano Rivera's final home series from Sept. 24 to 26.

Final Forecast: 10-7

Predicted Finish: 89-73

Cleveland Indians (78-68, .534)

at White Sox (3)

at Royals (3)

Astros (4)

White Sox (2)

at Twins (4)

Schedule Takeaway: The schedule is as easy as the Yankees', if not easier. Besides the Royals, all the other teams are terrible.

Final Forecast: 11-5

Predicted Finish: 89-73

Baltimore Orioles (77-69, .527)

at Blue Jays (3)

at Red Sox (3)

at Rays (4)

Blue Jays (3)

Red Sox (3)

Schedule Takeaway: Not exactly the ideal time to have a 10-game road trip, but that is what the O's face.

Final Forecast: 10-6

Predicted Finish: 87-65

Kansas City Royals (77-69) .527

at Tigers (3)

Indians (3)

Rangers (3)

at Mariners (3)

at White Sox (4)

Schedule Takeaway: I don't see it happening. The Royals' schedule is too tough, but maybe this is their year.

Final Forecast: 10-6

Predicted Finish: 87-75

So, you add it all up, we are projecting a three-way tie for the second wild card between the Yankees, Rays and Indians. That would cause all kinds of fun with two of the teams playing the Monday (Sept. 30) after the regular season ends for the right to face the third team on Tuesday. The winner of that game would then travel to Arlington, Texas, to face the Rangers on Wednesday for a chance to qualify for the actual tournament.

UP NOW: Wallace Matthews has all the news and views from the final night in Baltimore. He also has a column on Mr. Popular, Alex Rodriguez.

ON DECK: Ian O'Connor will join Wally in Boston on Friday night. Plus, I will have a post explaining further how possible wild-card ties would work.

IN THE HOLE: Here are your pitching matchups against the Red Sox: Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.99) vs. John Lackey (9-12, 3.48) on Friday. Saturday, CC Sabathia (13-12, 4.82) vs. Jon Lester (13-8, 3.86). Sunday, Ivan Nova (8-4, 3.17) vs. Clay Buchholz (10-0, 1.61).

QUESTION: How many games do the Yankees need to win this weekend?