The tension is palpable. You could feel the excitement in the air. The wait for October baseball is nearly over. But before we willingly dive head first into all of the MLB playoffs madness, there is still some business to take care of in the final days of the regular season.
Aside from a razor-tight NL East race, the 2022 campaign offered little in the way of last-minute drama and suspense. This year, though, is headed towards a wild conclusion. There are still unclaimed postseason berths in both leagues, with Saturday's slate of games giving a few teams the chance to break out the bubbly.
We are going to set the table as best we can for the 2023 MLB playoffs, updating you on the latest AL and NL standings and seedings and spotlighting the critical wild card races. Let's get to it.
The Baltimore Orioles capped off their improbable year of dominance by claiming their first divisional title in nine years on Thursday. They will be prioritizing health and maintenance the rest of the weekend. The second-place Tampa Bay Rays are in the same boat and are just waiting to see who they will be hosting in the first round of the playoffs.
Those small-market overachievers can be joined by another AL East foe, if the Toronto Blue Jays defeat Tampa Bay on Saturday. A Seattle Mariners loss will also lock up a spot for the Jays.
Not much to report here. The AL Central remains one of the most anti-climactic divisions in baseball, as the Minnesota Twins (86-74) have faced virtually no resistance since August. However, the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians are engaged in a sub-.500 battle for second place, which will be determined by their next two head-to-head games. How exciting.
Seriously, though, there will be some intrigue, as the great Terry Francona wraps up a should-be Hall of Fame managerial career.
This the place to be for the next two days. The Texas Rangers, Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners can each clinch the AL West or miss the MLB postseason entirely. That is the exact insanity fans deserve and crave this time of the year. Texas holds a one-game lead over Houston, who in turn has a game up on Seattle. The tiebreakers, which we'll get into a little later, could be critical in sorting this whole mess out.
If you only have time to watch one game on Saturday, make it the Rangers-Mariners, while also keeping an eye on the Astros vs. Arizona Diamondbacks.
It all comes down to this. 😤
📺: TONIGHT at 7pm on FOX pic.twitter.com/2qUBHxmNq3
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) September 30, 2023
The Atlanta Braves will go into the postseason with the best record in baseball at 103-57. They've had nothing on the line for a while but still managed to sweep the desperate Chicago Cubs this week. The Philadelphia Phillies also cruise into October with a second-place NL East finish and their eyes firmly on a return World Series trip.
All of the interest this weekend, though, lies in the Miami Marlins, who can clinch just their fourth playoff berth in franchise history with a win or losses by both the Cubs and Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.
It was a race for a while, but the Milwaukee Brewers (91-69) surged in September and locked down their second NL Central crown in three years. Their only remaining purpose in the regular season is likely to thrust the dagger into Chicago's postseason dreams. Cincinnati needs to win out against the St. Louis Cardinals and get a lot help to squeeze its way into October.
The Los Angeles Dodgers (99-61) once again run away with the NL West, continuing their near-endless reign of supremacy. But don't scroll past the Diamondbacks because they are very much in the hunt for a wild card slot.
AL, NL Wild Card
AL Wild Card
We already alluded to the potential hysteria that this chase can produce across Saturday and Sunday, but its significance cannot be overstated. While the NL is replete with feel-good storylines, there is a decent possibility that one of the three AL Wild Card representatives wins it all.
The Rays' status has never been questioned, but the Astros and Mariners could be fighting until the season finale for that final postseason slot. The defending World Series champions are in control of their own destiny but face an Arizona team with a lot to play for in its own right. No one is feeling as desperate as Seattle, however.
The M's have to beat the Rangers at least one more time (maybe two) and need Houston to stumble in the desert. As mentioned before, though, there is still a chance Texas slides into the wild card fray or misses the MLB playoffs altogether. Crazy stuff.
NL Wild Card
The Cubs were in prime position to clinch an NL Wild Card position just a week ago but have consistently combusted late in games. They did so again on Friday versus the Brewers and are now tied with the Reds, trailing the D-backs by two games and Marlins by one-and-a-half.
Miami (83-76) is on the verge of accomplishing something truly special, advancing into the postseason with some of its best players either sidelined or banged-up. When the franchise ended its lengthy playoff drought in 2020, fans could not properly enjoy it. South Beach will erupt if and when the Fish punch their ticket this weekend versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Reds want to write their own storybook ending, though. Youth and inexperience has been considered their biggest roadblock, but can they grow up quick enough to give Joey Votto one more October at-bat? Arizona, not to be overshadowed, has cleared its own hurdles and can no longer be denied. Rookie Corbin Carroll is on the cusp of leading his squad to the MLB playoffs for the first time since 2017. They are currently in the second wild card slot, one-and-a-half games clear of the danger zone.
The Marlins scored 4 runs in the top of the 8th to beat the Pirates tonight, 4-3 .
Miami has now won 7 games when trailing by at least 3 runs in the 8th inning or later this season.
That's the such most wins in a single season in MLB history (h/t @EliasSports). pic.twitter.com/erTTcDyr0L
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 30, 2023
MLB Playoffs: seedings, tiebreakers
Teams' head-to-head records will determine tiebreakers. Records within the division will ultimately decide the tiebreaker if overall head-to-head records are the exact same, per Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.
The important one to look at will be if the Mariners and Astros end up tied in the standings. Seattle won the head-to-head series and thus makes the postseason if it pulls even with the champs after the last game. If the Rangers skid and end up tied with their AL West rivals, then they will stunningly be the odd one out (assuming Toronto secures second wild card position).
The NL Wild Card tiebreakers are a little more complex, as shown by MLB.com, but the Marlins benefit the most.
AL seedings (As of 9/30)
- Blue Jays