Wild-card watch: Race could soon become chaotic

— -- Do you like chaos? I'm rooting for chaos. The season ends Sunday, Oct. 2. The AL wild-card game is scheduled for Tuesday, and the NL wild-card game is on Wednesday. That doesn't leave much room for tiebreaker scenarios. You can read through all those scenarios here, although I don't see a plan of action listed for three teams tying for the AL East, plus tying two other teams for the wild card (like the Astros and Tigers). You're not going to get that resolved in one day.

Let's take a quick look at the state of the wild-card races.

Current wild-card odds (from FiveThirtyEight):

American League
Blue Jays: 42 percent (plus 35 percent to win the division).
Tigers: 40 percent
Orioles: 32 percent
Astros: 18 percent (dropped 6 percent after losing to Cleveland)
Yankees: 15 percent
Royals: 9 percent

National League
Mets: 74 percent (up 4 percent)
Giants: 60 percent
Cardinals: 49 percent (down 9 percent)
Pirates: 7 percent

Most important win: Yankees over Rays 5-4. Entering Thursday, a team had allowed four home runs in a game 126 times this season -- and had gone 21-105. The Yankees gave up four home runs and won because that's what happens these days for the Yankees. The famed bullpen quintet of Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, Blake Parker, Kirby Yates and Tommy Layne?(nickname, please!) allowed one run over five innings. Tyler Austin then won it with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth, sending Yankees fans into a frenzy. The Yankees are two back of the Orioles for the second wild card.

Most important loss: Cardinals fall 12-5 to the Brewers. In the previous wild-card watch, I mentioned that Jaime Garcia had been struggling, and he did so again, giving up five runs and two homers in 3 2/3 innings. Mike Matheny then left in Mike Mayers to give up six runs in the sixth inning. The Cardinals dropped a half-game behind the Mets for the second wild card. Keep in mind the remaining schedules: The Cardinals have two series against the Cubs, one against wild-card leader San Francisco (four games on the road) and a season-ending series against Pittsburgh that may matter. The Mets have one series each against the Nationals and Marlins, but also get the Braves and Phillies twice each plus the hapless Twins. That's why the Mets currently project as the slight wild-card favorites over the Cardinals and Giants.

Hitter to watch: Manny Machado, Orioles. After a bad July (.204, 4 HRs, .625 OPS), Machado hit 10 home runs in August and has two in September. What's interesting is the big August came despite deterioration in his strikeout-to-walk ratio (21 K's, 2 BB). When you dig into the numbers, however, there hasn't been a dramatic change in his approach. His pitches per plate appearance remained stable, his chase rate didn't increase significantly and his swing-and-miss rate in August was actually lower than his season rate.

Pitcher to watch: Michael Fulmer, Tigers. Clayton Kershaw returns to the Dodgers' rotation (in a great matchup against Jose Fernandez) and will be on an unspecified pitch limit, but this is the wild-card watch, so let's focus on Fulmer. With all the talk of innings limits for young guys, the Tigers have continued to roll out their likely Rookie of the Year, although with a little more time between starts -- he had six days off before his last start and seven before that. He has allowed 12 runs and 22 hits in 16 2/3 innings over his past three outings, so let's see if he's hitting a bit of a wall (or maybe his low BABIP is regressing to the norm).

Injury to watch: Lucas Duda, Mets. The Mets haven't completely ruled out a 2016 return for their first baseman, who had a setback in August in his return from a stress fracture in his lower back. He has been hitting soft toss down in Florida and could start live BP soon.

Game of the day: Red Sox at Blue Jays. You'd think we'd get more series with two playoff contenders facing off, but we have only three this weekend: this one, Orioles at Tigers and Cubs at Astros (I'm not counting Dodgers at Marlins). Boston reclaimed sole possession of first place on Wednesday for the first time since July 21 and lead by a full game for the first time since June 4. Rick Porcello goes for his 20th win while Marco Estrada tries to halt a second-half skid (5.00 ERA, as his BABIP has regressed from an unsustainable .193 to .307).