MLB playoff picture: Five things still up for grabs in final days of baseball’s regular season

The Major League Baseball regular season is entering its final days. Barring an unforeseen development, the season will close on Wednesday night. Everyone will then have Thursday off before the wildcard round begins on Friday. MLB discontinued tiebreaker games this season as part of the introduction of the expanded postseason, meaning there is no chance of a Game 163 situation.

There may only be three days left before most of the league enters the offseason, but there’s plenty of unfinished business left to sort out in the major leagues. Below, CBS Sports has highlighted five aspects that must be resolved before the playoffs begin.

1. National League East winner

The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets played the longest series of the weekend, a three-game set that saw the Braves sweep and turn a one-game deficit into a two-game lead in the division.

The two sides entered Sunday night’s game tied in the season series at 9-9. With the win, the Braves took control of the tiebreaker. In other words, the Mets can only win the division if they finish with the best overall record. The Braves, for their part, will clinch the division with another win or a Mets loss, whichever comes first.

In addition to being able to hang a division champion banner, the winner will earn a first-round bye as a result of the second-best record in the NL. The loser, instead, will have to settle for hosting a Wild Card series this weekend.

The Braves have the Miami Marlins in left. the Mets will play the Washington Nationals.

2. Final NL wildcard spot

The Philadelphia Phillies entered Monday two games back on the Milwaukee Brewers with three to play. Additionally, the Phillies own the tiebreaker over the Brewers, having won the season series 4-2.

The Phillies’ magic number, then, is only one — either a win by them or a loss by the Brewers. In other words, the Brewers should win and for the Phillies to lose to reach October.

It’s possible — the Phillies face a tougher opponent (Houston Astros) than the Brewers (Arizona Diamondbacks) — but highly unlikely.

3. Home-field advantage

We know the Los Angeles Dodgers will have home field advantage in every postseason series they play, and we know the Astros will have the same through the League Championship Series. We also know that the New York Yankees and the winner of the NL East race will be the No. 2 seed and host their Division Series. Otherwise?

In the AL, the Cleveland Guardians will host their Wild Card series, likely against the Tampa Bay Rays. Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays lead the Seattle Mariners by 2 1/2 games in the race for hosting duties in the other Wild Card series. (The Mariners have four games left, all against the Detroit Tigers.)

In the NL, the loser of the East race will host its Wild Card Series, but we have to see which team heads there versus which one heads to St. Louis to face the Cardinals. The San Diego Padres have a one game lead over the Phillies. The Padres will finish their schedule against the San Francisco Giants. the Phillies (who hold the tiebreaker against the Padres) will play the Astros.

4. Historical searches of the judge

Thought we’d forget about Aaron Judge? No chance. The New York Yankees shortstop is having one of his best offensive seasons ever, entering Monday with a .311/.427/.689 slash and 61 home runs in 685 trips to the plate.

Judge has four games remaining against the Texas Rangers (the two teams play a doubleheader on Tuesday) to potentially accomplish two historic feats: A) surpass Roger Maris for the most single-season home runs in franchise history of the American League and the Yankees? and B) become the second player since 1968 to win the AL Triple Crown. (Miguel Cabrera did it most recently in 2012.)

The first part is clear. Judge needs just one more home run to surpass Maris’ 61-year-old record. He has already tied it and it stands to reason that he has at least one home run left in his bat.

The second is a bit more difficult. Judge is the easy leader in home runs (22) and runs in (eight), but trails Minnesota Twins slugger Luis Arráez by four points: .311 to .315. Judge hasn’t put a ball in play since Friday, further complicating his effort to close the gap. The good news is that he can help his case on both counts by launching, you know, another home run or three.

5. Lottery Placement Draft

After all this postseason talk, let’s not forget the other side of the spectrum. MLB is set to host its first lottery this winter, and there’s some shuffling that could happen between now and Wednesday that would change the odds.

The most important “race” concerns the No. 3 position. The Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics are safe as the worst and second-worst clubs. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds are tied for third, however, with each having lost 99 games. The draft tiebreaker has historically included the previous year’s record, a measure that would give the Pirates the upper hand based on their poor 2021.

The difference between the third- and fourth-worst records would seem insignificant, but the three worst teams all have a 16.5% shot at the No. 1 pick. The fourth-worst team is shooting 13.2 percent. Maybe this is a minor difference that won’t end up mattering, but when you’re a bad team, you get all the help you can get.

The Pirates will finish their year against the Cardinals. The Reds will play the Cubs. On paper, this appears to favor the Pirates to secure the third-worst record.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *