Sunday preview: Five things to watch

All eyes might be on Cole Hamels as the Rangers take on Mike Trout and the Angels, but with the Astros coming on strong and several teams aiming to clinch home-field advantage, strap in for a busy season-ending Sunday.

Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel

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Rogers: Jake Arrieta enjoying a season to remember

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Cubs grab 3-0 first-inning lead

Anthony Rizzo capped Chicago's three-run opening inning with a two-run single. If the Cubs beat the Brewers and the Pirates lose to the Reds (PIT leads 1-0 in 1st), Chicago would host the NL wild card game. Follow live

David Schoenfield SweetSpot blogger 

Not a good first inning for Cole Hamels. Albert Pujols unloads with a two-run homer and Hamels throws 19 pitches. Rangers bullpen is very thin today so Hamels has to get that pitch count down and pitch reasonably deep into this game.

Pujols starts must-win in style

Albert Pujols hit his 40th HR of the season in the first inning to put Los Angeles ahead 2-0 over the Rangers. The Angels need to win today and get some help to make the playoffs. Follow live

Angels @Angels

Albert now at 560 career HRs, three shy of matching Reggie Jackson for 13th all-time. #Angels

Jayson Stark Senior Writer, ESPN.com 

We have 15 baseball games, I'm, kicking off right now. And 7 of them will determine the shape of the postseason. Can't wait.

AL scenario: West winner

  • Rangers clinch AL West with win or Astros loss.
  • If Rangers lose and Astros win, Rangers-Astros play one-game playoff for AL West; loser gets WC berth.


NL scenario: wild card No. 1

  • Pirates host WC game with win or Cubs loss.
  • Cubs host WC game with win and Pirates loss.


Jerry Crasnick ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer 

Dan Jennings on the possibility of Dee Gordon winning a batting title: "We love the kid. He's been such a humongous part of us with his energy and upbeat spirit and attitude.''

Jerry Crasnick ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer 

Marlins manager Dan Jennings said he'll be keeping a close watch on NL batting race today. Dee Gordon begins the day at .3306 -- a sliver behind Nationals Bryce Harper, who's at .3307.

AL scenario: wild card No. 1

  • Yankees clinch home field for AL WC game with a win or Astros loss.
  • Astros clinch home field for AL WC game with a win, Yankees loss and Rangers win.
  • If Yankees lose and Angels and Astros win, Rangers-Astros play one-game playoff for AL West with loser hosting NY in WC game.


AL scenario: wild card No. 2

  • Astros get WC No. 2 with win and Yankees and Rangers wins.
  • Yankees get WC No. 2 with loss and Astros win.
  • If Angels win, Astros lose and Yankees win, Angels-Astros play one-game playoff for WC No. 2.


Jesse Rogers ESPN Staff Writer 

If the Cubs win and Pirates lose today then WC game will be played at Wrigley on Wed. Otherwise at PNC. Joe Maddon likes all games starting at same time today.


Mark Saxon ESPN Staff Writer 

Don Mattingly said Jimmy Rollins will manage today's game and Kenley Jansen will be the pitching coach, but he didn't subject them to the pre-game media scrum.

David Schoenfield SweetSpot blogger 

Toughest job today belongs to Rangers manager Jeff Banister if Cole Hamels doesn't pitch deep into the game. Top relievers Shawn Tolleson and Sam Dyson have each pitched five days in a row. Plus Rangers could face a tiebreaker game on Monday and a wild-card game on Tuesday.

AL scenario: Top AL seed

  • Royals win No. 1 seed with a win today vs. the Twins OR a Blue Jays loss to the Rays.
  • Blue Jays win No. 1 seed with a win vs. Tampa Bay and a Royals loss.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP