Well, that just about clears it up. With three days left on the schedule in MLB’s regular season, only one spot in the postseason field remains open. And it’s nearly been clinched.
With the American League side settled (if not sorted out), the Philadelphia Phillies are close to being the last National League team to make the playoffs. Following the results Sunday afternoon, the Phillies have a magic number of 1 over the Milwaukee Brewers. One more win by the Phillies or one more loss by the Brewers in the next three days clinches it for Philly.
The Houston Astros host the Phillies for three games, and the Brewers host the Diamondbacks for three. So Philadelphia and Milwaukee still could flip spots. It just seems unlikely, especially after the Brewers had so much trouble with the Miami Marlins. Also, the Astros are locked into their playoff spot and have nothing to play for in the standings.
With five of the six division winners already settled, we’re also close to having the NL East decided. The Atlanta Braves, who on June 1 were 10 1/2 games behind the New York Mets, have moved two games ahead with three to go after a weekend sweep at Truist Park. The Braves knocked around Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt for a combined 11 earned runs, including six home runs, in 14 1/3 innings over three games. The Mets aren't playing terribly but picked a bad time to slump, while the Braves have been on another level for months.
Everybody starts the playoffs at 0-0, though the Mets’ road will be tougher because they likely now have an extra round to play. New York's opponent figures to be the San Diego Padres, who beat the Mets in four of their six regular-season meetings. If the Braves win the NL East, they would await, as of this moment, the hypothetical winner of Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals.
MLB Power Rankings
Rankings are determined by staff vote
Records and statistics are through Oct.. 2
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (110-49, Last week: 1): They have a bigger run differential (+336) than any team in MLB history since the 1927 Yankees (+376) and the 1939 Yankees (+411).
2. Houston Astros (104-55, LW: 2): Right-hander Christian Javier might be the hottest pitcher in the league heading into the postseason, having allowed six hits over 23 scoreless innings. The Astros are on track to play the winner of the Mariners-Blue Jays wild-card series.
3. Atlanta Braves (100-59, LW: 4): They're 76-32 since June 1, just one game worse than the Dodgers.
4. New York Mets (98-61, LW: 3): Since the start of June, they have gone 63-44 (.589), yet they have lost 12 1/2 games in the NL East standings to the Braves.
5. New York Yankees (97-61, LW: 5): Aaron Judge has up to four games left over the next three days, including a doubleheader in Texas on Tuesday, to break a 61-all tie with Roger Maris for the AL single-season home run record. Judge could be, at least partly, ready for the playoffs to start and the home-run chase to end. The Yankees would play the Rays-Guardians winner in the AL Division Series, if the bracket holds form.
6. St. Louis Cardinals (92-67, LW: 6): Albert Pujols hit a home run, career No. 702, in his final regular-season game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. One last push for another ring awaits.
7. Cleveland Guardians (90-69, LW: 7): The club has brought up catching prospect Bo Naylor, a brother of teammate Josh Naylor. They were both in the starting lineup on Sunday.
8. Toronto Blue Jays (90-69, LW: 8): They are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners for home-field advantage in the AL wild-card round. Seattle won five of seven games during the regular season. Toronto already has home field clinched against Tampa Bay, if that were the matchup.
9. Seattle Mariners (87-71, LW: 12): Julio Rodriguez, who has been sidelined because of a sore back, is expected to return to the lineup Monday.
10. San Diego Padres (87-72, LW: 9): Likely postseason pitching order: Yu Darvish, left-hander Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove. Likely postseason opponent: the Mets, with the Dodgers waiting in the NLDS.
11. Tampa Bay Rays (86-73, LW: 10): If the wild-card order holds through the end of the regular season, Cleveland (with home field) would be Tampa Bay's opponent in the postseason. The Guardians took four of six games in head-to-head matchups.
12. Philadelphia Phillies (86-73, LW: 11): If the playoffs started today, they'd face the Cardinals, against whom they went 4-3 during the regular season. If they jump ahead of San Diego, Philly instead would face the Mets, against whom they went 5-14 during the regular season.
13. Milwaukee Brewers (84-75, LW: 13): They started the season with a 32-18 record, but they are five games under .500 since May 31 to drop nearly out of contention.
14. Baltimore Orioles (82-77, LW: 14): They didn't make the playoffs, but they are guaranteed to finish with a winning record after losing 110 games in 2021.
15. Chicago White Sox (79-80, LW: 16): Citing health issues, Tony La Russa is set to announce his retirement Monday. Back to the Hall of Fame he goes. The White Sox have a new manager to find, plus many other big issues to resolve this offseason.
16. Minnesota Twins (77-82, LW: 17): They promoted right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson, who — no joke — has the longest last name (15 letters/16 characters, including the space) in AL/NL history.
17. San Francisco Giants (80-79, LW: 15): Joc Pederson is having the best individual season of his career while playing for his hometown team, but in interviews, he made it sound like he wants to be more certain of playing with a postseason contender in 2023.
18. Los Angeles Angels (73-86, LW: 20): Shohei Ohtani signed a $30 million contract for next season, avoiding arbitration. So, people ask, does this increase the likelihood of Ohtani and the Angels agreeing on a long-term deal? Well, it doesn't hurt, but dragging Ohtani through the arbitration process over relative pennies would not have helped the Angels persuade him to stay. So the short answer is “Yes, it helps.” But this also was the easy part.
19. Chicago Cubs (73-86, LW: 21): They really messed up the Willson Contreras relationship, first being unwilling to sign him to a contract extension and later failing to get something for him in a trade. But at least they let him say goodbye to Wrigley Field in a classy way.
20. Boston Red Sox (75-84, LW: 18): They went 3-16 against the Blue Jays, 4-12 against the Rays and 6-13 against the Yankees. That's a combined 13-41. Going .500 against those teams would have put Boston in the playoffs. The Red Sox did go 10-9 against the Orioles, though.
21. Arizona Diamondbacks (73-86, LW: 19): Rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll is off to a good start — .260/.330/.469 with three home runs and two steals in his first 29 games.
22. Miami Marlins (67-92, LW: 25): They split with the Mets this past week and took three of four from the Brewers to have a definite impact on the NL pennant race (just not the kind they preferred).
23. Texas Rangers (66-92, LW: 22): They get to host the Aaron Judge experience for the next three days as he goes for solo possession of the AL single-season home run record.
24. Colorado Rockies (66-93, LW: 23): Right-hander Germán Márquez dominated the Dodgers on Sunday, leading Colorado to its second win in 13 games. But even if the Rox don't win again (and they face L.A. three more times) they've already assured themselves it won't be the losingest season in franchise history.
25. Detroit Tigers (65-93, LW: 27): Eric Haase, with a 114 wRC+, is one of just two everyday Tigers hitters to produce better-than-average results relative to the league this season. (Rookie outfielder Riley Greene is the other.) Haase, a Detroit-area native, is batting .257/.309/.448 with 14 home runs and has a career .435 slugging percentage in his first 715 at-bats over parts of five seasons.
26. Kansas City Royals (64-95, LW: 24): Rookie slugger Vinnie Pasquantino is batting .291/.381/.441 with nine home runs in 247 at-bats, and he has 34 walks and 33 strikeouts. Only a handful of players can say they've walked more than they've struck out this season.
27. Cincinnati Reds (60-99, LW: 26): They haven't scored more than three runs in any of their 10 games since Sept. 21.
28. Pittsburgh Pirates (60-99, LW: 29): Pujols can name his final home run number against the Bucs, who finish the season with three against the Redbirds at PNC Park.
29. Oakland Athletics (57-102, LW: 28): The city of Oakland has yet to agree to a new ballpark deal and, at this late date in the local legislative calendar, it probably means there won't be definitive plans for a new A's stadium until 2023 (at least).
30. Washington Nationals (55-104, LW: 30): They beat the Phillies twice in a weekend series to at least give the Brewers a glimmer of hope in the NL wild-card race. Now they face the Mets, who probably have locked themselves into the wild-card round no matter what.