With just over five weeks until the end of the 2012 regular season, it’s fair to say we’ve reached that point in the season where teams out of playoff contention will start to look ahead to the off season, while teams with a legitimate shot at post season baseball prepare for the intensity of every game played going forward having a impact on who makes it and who doesn’t.

Here’s a look at where the teams stand as of Friday afternoon and the important fixtures for this coming weekend.

AL Division Leaders:

Yankees lead the Rays by 2.5 games in the East.

White Sox lead the Tigers by 1.5 games in the Central.

Rangers lead the Athletics by 6.0 games in the West.

Wild Card Leaders: Rays, Athletics, Orioles, Tigers (remember the Orioles are already printing playoff tickets!).

NL Division Leaders:

Nationals lead the Braves by 6.5 games in the East.

Reds lead the Cardinals by 7.0 games in the Central.

Giants lead the Dodgers by 3.0 games in the West.

Wild Card Leaders: Braves, Cardinals.

Best Weekend Series:

The World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals are suddenly hot (with help from the Astros) and now get a crack at three games with the division leading Reds, followed by three with the Pirates. On this day last year, the Cardinals were ten games back of the Braves for the only Wild Card, and we all know what happened there.

Pitching matchups for the Cards and Reds are as follows:

Friday: Lance Lynn (3.73 ERA, 3.54 FIP) vs Mat Latos (3.56 ERA, 4.05 FIP).

Saturday: Jaime Garcia (4.00 ERA, 2.57 FIP) vs Mike Leake (4.59 ERA, 4.16 FIP).

Sunday: Adam Wainwright (3.65 ERA, 2.94 FIP) vs Homer Bailey (4.11 ERA, 4.31 FIP).

Other notable matchups:

The Angels, 2.5 games out of the Wild Card in the AL, start a three game set with the Tigers this weekend in Motown. The Angels will send Zack Greinke to the mound for Game 1, followed by Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. If L.A. has any hope of making the playoffs, it’s going to be through the Wild Card, with the Rangers ahead of them in the West by 8.5 games. Winning these games against the teams ahead of them are a must, with a sweep needed to get back in the conversation. In his five starts with the Angels, Greinke has posted a 6.19 ERA in 32 innings with a -0.4 fWAR.

The Rays and A’s continue their weekend series, with two good pitching matchups. Friday we will see two good looking arms go head-to-head as Jarrod Parker tosses for the A’s against Matt Moore while Saturday sees right-hander Brandon McCarthy go for the A’s against Jeremy Hellickson. The Rays dominated Game 1 of the series, taking a 5-0 decision behind Alex Cobb’s complete game shutout.

Out West, the Dodgers play three against the Marlins while the Giants continue their four game set with the Braves.

And the rest from around the MLB:

The Blue Jays will have Jose Bautista back in the lineup tonight against the Baltimore Orioles after he ended his rehab assignment with two long home runs for the Fisher Cats in Double-A  [unionleader.com]

Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford underwent ‘successful’ Tommy John surgery and is expected out 7-9 months. [Boston Globe]

Yankees third baseman Eric Chavez wants to a manager one day. [Wall Street Journal]

The Oakland Athletics moved ahead of the New York Yankees in the latest Uni Watch Power Rankings. [ESPN]

Indians CEO Paul Dolan said that the jobs of his manager, general manager and president are safe despite the Indians collapse in the second half. [MLB.com]

Cleveland will also listen to offers for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo this offseason [CBSSports.com]

Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez thinks nothing of the team placing him on waivers. [ESPN.com]

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