Every day between now and the end of the regular season, we'll check in on where things stand in the playoff race. The Red Sox clinched a playoff spot on Thursday.
• Red Sox record: 93-61
• Games left: 8
• Lead in AL East: 9 games over Tampa Bay (83-69)
• Magic number to win division: 1
• Magic number to clinch best overall record: 8
• What does magic number mean? If Tampa Bay wins all 10 of its remaining games, Boston would have to win 1 to win the division. Any combination of Sox wins and Rays losses totaling 1, and the Sox win the division. So that means the earliest they could win the division is Friday.
• How to calculate magic number: You calculate your magic number by looking at the number of games remaining in the season and assuming that your nearest competitor will win all their remaining games. Then you see how many games you still need to win to ensure the division title even if your nearest competitor wins all of its remaining games.
• Overall ranking in league (important for determining home-field advantage in playoffs): First, 2½ games ahead of Oakland, 3½ games ahead of Detroit.
• If season ended today, teams in playoffs: Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Rangers, Rays
• What about the Yankees? The New York Post’s George King calls them the "3-D Yankees." Definitely Done Dancing. They lost to the Blue Jays 6-2 Wednesday night, their fifth loss in their last six games, and are 3½ games out of a wild-card spot with 9 games left to play. And they’d have to climb over four other teams to get there. The Yanks have scored 13 runs in their last 6 games; Alex Rodriguez is 1 for his last 22.
• Who’s hot?: Late-blooming third baseman Josh Donaldson of the Athletics is having a spectacular September slash line (.383 AVG/.500 OBP/.683 SLG) with 4 home runs and 12 RBIs in mounting an improbable challenge to Miguel Cabrera as the league's MVP. Donaldson is a big reason why Oakland has the league's best record in September at 13-5, a half-game better than Boston (12-5).
• Who’s not?: Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias avoided serious injury when he was struck in the left hand by a 95 mph fastball from Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen on Thursday. X-rays came back negative, though Iglesias was left with a very painful bruise. “Absolutely I was afraid (it was broken),” said Iglesias, “but it’s not. That’s a good thing, great news, and I’m happy about it. A broken hand would have meant the rest of the season. It feels bad, but I got lucky.”
Iglesias has cooled off at the plate of late, batting .238 with no walks in his past 45 plate appearances.
• Red Sox latest outcome: Beat the Orioles 3-1 on Thursday.
• Rays latest outcome: Lost to the Rangers 8-2 on Thursday.
• Notable: Indians outfielder Matt Carson, a September call-up, entered the Astros-Indians game Thursday as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning, and then singled home the winning run in the 11th in Cleveland's 2-1 win. The victory pulled the Indians to within a half-game in the AL wild-card race. Carson’s nickname is “Crash” for his penchant for running into outfield walls. The 32-year-old has played in 1,250 minor league games, 84 in the bigs. He is 7-for-9 for the Indians.
• Playoff format: AL wild-card play-in game on Wednesday, Oct. 2. AL best-of-five division series begins Friday, Oct. 4.