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AL Baseball Race Headed for Wild Finish

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

Time now for sports. It's the first day of October. Baseball fans are still waiting for what turn the playoffs will take. Last night, the Yankees lost to the Red Sox in Boston, 5-3, which tied the American League East. But don't count the Cleveland Indians out. They're only one game back from wild card. Our sports commentator Ron Rapoport joins us.

Ron, hi.

RON RAPOPORT reporting:

Hi, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: I feel like this is a game of who's on first. Let's start with the American League East. What has to happen for Boston to win?

RAPOPORT: Well, Linda, let me just tell you that last night I was in the bar of the Atlanta airport--don't ask, OK? And I'm watching the ninth inning of the Yankees and the Red Sox on one screen and the White Sox and the Indians on the other screen. By the end of the evening, New York, Boston and Cleveland could all have had the same record with two games to play. Well, the Indians lost, but if the Yankees and the Red Sox split these next two games, OK, and the Indians win the last two from the White Sox, they would all end up with the same record. So you're thinking `Who's on first?' and I'm thinking `paper, scissors, rock,' because one of them isn't going to make it. They would have to have--if they all ended up tied--two playoff games next week, Monday and Tuesday, to decide which team is left out. This is great stuff.

WERTHEIMER: Yeah, yeah. So for the Yankees to win, Boston has to lose, obviously.

RAPOPORT: Exactly. Exactly. And it's going to come down to the Yankees and the Red Sox. Here we go again, baseball's longest-running passion play, right? But consider this. If after these next two games one of them wins the American League East and the other one wins the wild card, they could do it all again in a couple of weeks. It's too bad we can't figure out a way to have them meet in the World Series.

WERTHEIMER: Right. Right. So Cleveland--is Cleveland going to get the wild card slot or--I mean, where does Cleveland--where is Cleveland?

RAPOPORT: They need to win these next two games. That has to happen. Now it doesn't look good last night after losing in extra innings, they look like they might all of a sudden have a problem.

WERTHEIMER: The National League wild card is also getting closer, with the Astros just one game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies.

RAPOPORT: Well, they were two games ahead until they lost to--you should pardon the expression--the Cubs yesterday. And now it's up to Roger Clemens to kind of put the envelope back together for them today. They need to get straightened out. Right now I would say they were in pretty good shape.

WERTHEIMER: I hate to ask, Ron, but what do you think's going to happen?

RAPOPORT: Well, we're still washing the champagne out of our hair here in Chicago, Linda. I think that they are going to go to the World Series. What do you think about that? And the Cardinals have been playing so well all year that I figure that they're going to make it in the National League.

WERTHEIMER: Ron Rapoport is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, our sports commentator on WEEKEND EDITION. Thank you very much.

RAPOPORT: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: And the time is 22 minutes before the hour. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.