Playoff positioning still needs to be determined in the American League. Will the Yankees or Orioles win the East? And will the A's get another win over the Rangers to claim the title in the West?
1. The Orioles will throw Chris Tillman, who's probably their best starter, on Wednesday. Should they instead save him for an actual playoff game?
Eric Karabell (@karabellespn), ESPN.com: Absolutely not. The Orioles should play every game as though it is a playoff game, because there's a big difference between winning the AL East and being forced to play the one-game wild-card playoff on Friday. That game could be across the country in Oakland, too! Keep Tillman on schedule for Wednesday, and if you've got to play Friday, figure it out later.
Molly Knight (@molly_knight), ESPN The Magazine: Actually? No. I thought a great deal about this, and the O's are so close to winning the AL East for the first time since God was a child, so why not go for it? They seem to be a ridiculous team of destiny anyway. Some random pitcher probably will win the wild-card play-in game for them if Daisuke Matsuzaka can't beat the Yankees. I support the Fighting Showalters going for broke.
Logan Burdine (@Logan_Burdine), Blake Street Bulletin: The Orioles still have a chance to win the East and avoid the wild-card game. That would help their playoff chances tremendously. However, it probably doesn't make all that much difference who starts these games. The O's starting pitching has been mediocre at best all season, but they've won anyway because of a terrific bullpen. Expect Buck Showalter to keep his starters on a short leash and lean heavily on his relievers from here on out.
2. Which player will be the story of Wednesday, for good or bad reasons?
Karabell: As much as I want to predict the Orioles and Yankees will give us Thursday baseball, the Red Sox will send Matsuzaka to the mound on Wednesday, which just cannot go well. And even if it does, someone in the Boston bullpen will blow it. Sorry, Orioles. The story will be Athletics rookie A.J. Griffin outdueling Ryan Dempster with seven solid innings to stun the Rangers and steal the AL West.
Knight: Adrian Beltre. He'll get the hit to win the division for the Rangers because he's really, really good.
Burdine: A couple of home runs from Josh Hamilton would certainly make some noise, wouldn't it? However, I think it's going to be Dempster, a trade deadline acquisition pitching in Oakland with the AL West title on the line. This is exactly why the Rangers traded for him.
3. Make a bold prediction for the final day.
Karabell: Well, it's probably a bit too bold to ask Mike Trout to go 7-for-7 and steal the batting title from Miguel Cabrera, who probably will not play, so instead I will say the Cubs' Travis Wood throws a no-hitter. Hey, you said bold, and he's facing the Astros, and, well, he's held current Astros hitters to a composite .177 batting average. It's not .000, but we shall see!
Knight: Dice-K will throw seven innings of one-run ball, and the Yankees will see on the scoreboard that the Orioles have won and will choke against the Red Sox's beleaguered pen.
Burdine: The Yankees will lose to the Red Sox and the Orioles will beat the Rays, setting up a Game 163 showdown for the AL East and a spot in the ALDS. Maybe that's more of a wish than a prediction, but it sure would be fun to see.