Olney: X factors in the races for the postseason

The Washington Nationals were the first team to clinch a division, with manager Dusty Baker joining his players in wearing champagne-proof goggles. Soon enough, the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros and, yes, even the Los Angeles Dodgers will follow. A lot of the postseason picture already seems settled and has been for weeks.

But there are unresolved races with possible pivot points.

American League wild card

The status of Minnesota Twins slugger Miguel Sano.

He has not played since Aug. 19, after fouling a ball off his shin on Aug. 18, and just last week, Minnesota manager Paul Molitor indicated that Sano wasn't close to returning. Sano has been making progress, and he is such a different and dynamic force at the plate that the Twins might not wait for him to go through the usual progression before returning him to the lineup.

In fact, there is some hope within the organization that Sano could return as a threat off the bench for the start of the team's series against Toronto that begins Thursday. Even if his timing is off and he's a little rusty in his swing, the Twins will take whatever they can get out of him as soon as the team gets the OK from its medical staff, because opposing pitchers and managers will always view Sano and his power with fear.