The week ahead in MLB: Astros, Indians trying to shave down magic numbers

While we wait to see if the Cleveland Indians will ever lose again or if the Los Angeles Dodgers will ever win, there’s a big week of baseball ahead of us. The Washington Nationals were the first team to wrap up their division, locking up their third NL East crown in four seasons Sunday.

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Who’s next? Whose magic numbers should you be watching? Which playoff-hungry teams have important series this week? Let’s take a look at the week ahead in MLB:

WATCH THESE MAGIC NUMBERS
The lowest magic numbers left entering play Monday belong to the Houston Astros and the Indians, each with a seven. Both teams are facing division opponents to start the week (the Astros are in Anaheim to play the Angels; the Indians host the Tigers) so those magic numbers could shrink rather quickly. With some good ball, they could be celebrating division titles by the end of the week.

Jose Altuve and the Astros are within clinching distance in the AL West. (Getty Images)

ABOUT THOSE DODGERS
Oh, the Dodgers. That 92-51 record is great on first glance — if you ignore that they’ve lost 10 in a row and 15 of 16. They still have a nine-game lead in the division and their magic number is 11, enough that they could clinch the NL West pretty quickly if they invert their luck and start winning every game. They’ll start with a three-game series Monday against the rival San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Maybe seeing their bitter rivals will help the Dodgers turn things around?

SERIES OF THE WEEK
The NL Central remains baseball’s most closely contested division. The Chicago Cubs, who should have a lock on this thing, just keep giving the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals slivers of hope. Both the Brewers and the Cardinals are two games back from first place entering this week’s action. Looming big is a weekend series between the Cubs and the Cards at Wrigley, which looks like it could have a big impact on the NL Central. The Cubs start the week by hosting the Mets and the Cardinals play the Reds. The Brewers, meanwhile, face the Pirates and Marlins this week. All this impacts the NL wild card too, where the Brewers and Cards are three games behind the Colorado Rockies for the second spot.

The Cubs and Cardinals meet for a big series this weekend at Wrigley Field. (AP)

WILD-CARD TEAM TO WATCH
It could be a good week for the Minnesota Twins, who are currently owners of the second AL wild-card by a game over the Angels. The Twins host the Blue Jays and the Padres, neither of whom are great. The Angels, meanwhile, are matched up with two division foes, the aforementioned Astros and the Texas Rangers. Combined, the Angels are 11-18 against those two teams this season. Could be a good week for the Twins.

COULD THE A’S SHAKE UP THE AL EAST?
You might not have thought the Oakland Athletics would matter this time of the season, oh but they do. The A’s just swept the Houston Astros, including three games in a row where they scored more than 10 runs. Will that hot streak continue at Fenway Park? The Boston Red Sox host the A’s starting Monday, clinging to a 3.5 game lead in the AL East over the Yankees. If the A’s keeping hitting, it could help the Yankees big time. And keep in mind, the A’s have beaten the Red Sox in three of our games already this season.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!