The 2020 MLB playoffs are less than a week away, even though it seems like the regular season has barely kicked off. The compressed 60-game schedule is down to the final weekend, and the MLB standings are tight heading to the finish, with wild-card positioning, postseason seeding and the rest of the playoff picture at stake.
As has been the case with so much this season, the playoffs will have a new look, with an expanded format that includes 16 teams for the first time in MLB history.
This will be the place to visit every day through the end of the regular season for updated looks at the potential playoff field, recaps of the biggest games, analysis of the most important storylines and previews of the critical games ahead.
If the season ended today …
Best-of-three series, higher seed is home team
No. 1 Rays* vs. No. 8 Blue Jays*
No. 2 Twins* vs. No. 7 Indians*
No. 3 Athletics* vs. No. 6 Astros*
No. 4 White Sox* vs. No. 5 Yankees*
No. 1 Dodgers* vs. No. 8 Brewers
No. 2 Braves* vs. No. 7 Reds*
No. 3 Cubs* vs. No. 6 Marlins*
No. 4 Padres* vs. No. 5 Cardinals
*Clinched playoff spot
Magic numbers to clinch playoff spot
NL: Cardinals 2, Brewers 1
Who can clinch Sunday?
• The Twins can clinch the AL Central Division with a win over the Reds.
• The White Sox can clinch the AL Central with a win and a Twins loss.
• The Yankees can lock in the No. 5 seed with a win.
• The Blue Jays can get the No. 5 seed with a win and a Yankees loss.
• The Cardinals can clinch a postseason berth with a win over the Brewers.
• The Brewers can clinch a postseason berth with a win over the Cardinals.
• The Giants can clinch a postseason berth with a win and a Brewers loss.
• The Phillies can clinch a postseason berth with a win and if the Giants and Brewers both lose.
Who is already in?
The overwhelming preseason favorites clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and their eighth consecutive division title.
What’s next? The big prize for the Dodgers would be their first World Series title since 1988. This will be L.A.’s 14th playoff appearance since the Dodgers most recently won it all.
The White Sox clinched their first playoff berth since 2008. It will be the 10th postseason appearance in the history of the franchise, which dates to 1903.
What’s next? Chicago is looking for the AL Central title but still could slip to the No. 7 seed.
The Rays clinched the sixth postseason appearance in franchise history and their second in a row, as well as their first AL East title since 2010. Last year, Tampa Bay beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game and lost to Houston in the division series.
What’s next? Securing the No. 1 seed in the AL.
The A’s punched their third straight postseason ticket with a win over the Giants, then clinched the AL West three days later.
What’s next? After securing their first AL West crown since 2013, the A’s are still in the mix for one of the AL’s top two seeds.
A’s must-read: Inside the A’s dominance and how they plan to make it last
The Twins clinched their third postseason appearance in the past four seasons. Last year, they were swept by the Yankees in the division series, extending their postseason losing streak to 16 games since their most recent win in Game 1 of the 2004 AL Division Series.
What’s next? The Twins are still in the mix for the AL Central title and a top-three seed.
The Padres clinched their first postseason appearance since 2006 when they came back to beat the Mariners in extra innings 7-4 after fending off a no-hit bid.
What’s next? With a tight grasp on the No. 4 seed in the NL, they can focus on getting ready to make good on their 2020 breakthrough.
Padres must-read: How Padres GM A.J. Preller decided to go for it
Although they took a beating on Sunday in Boston, the Yankees clinched a playoff spot when the Padres beat the Mariners.
What’s next? The big question for the Yankees is if they can grab the AL’s No. 4 seed to start the postseason in their ballpark.
Yankees must-read: Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has a HR problem
Even before they finished their game against the Marlins on Tuesday, the Braves clinched their third straight NL East title when the Phillies were swept in their doubleheader against the Nationals. In both of the previous two seasons, the Braves failed to advance beyond the division series.
What’s next? Lining up their shallow rotation for next week’s playoff assignments and keeping everyone healthy seem like the immediate goals for Atlanta.
Braves must-read: Why a Braves-White Sox World Series would be extra special
Powered by Jose Ramirez’s three-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning against the White Sox, Cleveland clinched its return to the postseason after missing out on October in 2019, which snapped a streak of three consecutive playoff appearances.
What’s next? Cleveland is still in the hunt for first or second place in the AL Central, so the seeding is very much up in the air.
The Cubs snapped a one-season hiatus from the postseason and got rookie manager David Ross’ team to October in his first year in the dugout.
What’s next? Beyond clinching the NL Central title, getting Jose Quintana and Kris Bryant healthy and ready for the postseason is the Cubs’ two biggest priority in the time remaining.
Cubs must-read: Inside Yu Darvish’s return to elite status as the Cubs’ ace
What’s next? The Blue Jays are likely to end up as the No. 8 seed, so they’ll be able to keep Ryu lined up for their playoff opener Tuesday.
The Marlins didn’t just clinch their first season of .500 or better since 2009. They also earned their first appearance in the postseason since they won the 2003 World Series by beating the same team Friday that they beat then: the Yankees, the only team that Miami manager Don Mattingly played for in his career.
What’s next? The Fish are at risk of drawing the NL’s fifth seed, which would pit them against the Padres — not a matchup anybody would welcome. Then again, the Marlins weren’t supposed to get this far, so they’ll enjoy the trip wherever they’re headed.
Marlins must-read: How Olympic speedskater Eddy Alvarez made it to the show
The Reds clinched through a combination of circumstance and scheduling on Friday, beating the Twins for their 30th win while the Brewers and Phillies took their 30th losses, securing Cincinnati’s spot through victory and tiebreaker advantages.
What’s next? There’s no rule against earning another win or two this weekend to make sure the tiebreakers don’t matter.
Despite suffering a 5-4 walk-off loss to the Rangers, the Astros backed into the postseason on Friday while falling to .500 when the Dodgers — irony alert — clobbered the Angels to secure Houston’s spot on the AL postseason slate. The Astros become the fifth team that manager Dusty Baker has skippered into the postseason in his remarkable career.
What’s next? Avoiding the ignominy of being the first under-.500 team to reach the postseason by trying to win one more game this weekend.
Astros must-read: Why Verlander’s injury marks beginning of the end of Astros’ sad legacy
About last night …
The Brewers get home runs from Ryan Braun and Daniel Vogelbach and defeat the Cardinals 3-0.
Outside of seeing the Mets get eliminated, we didn’t get that much more certainty about who’s still in the National League postseason picture on Saturday. Brandon Woodruff of the Brewers made sure of that with his eight shutout innings to beat the Cardinals 3-0 and keep the Brewers’ playoff hopes alive, contributing to a ton of uncertainty going into the last day of the season over who’s in, not to mention what their seeds will be.
First off, it means St. Louis could use a win Sunday almost as badly as the Brewers in their matchup, at least to try to avoid having to play a game or two against the Tigers on Monday. And with the Giants taking a loss for the third time in their past four games to fall below .500 with their 6-2 loss Saturday to the Padres, they’re now tied with Milwaukee at 29-30, neck and neck in the race for one of the last two open playoff slots in the NL.
Want true mayhem? There is now the danger of a three-way tie between the Brewers, Giants and Phillies for a No. 8 seed at 29-31 on Sunday. If that happens, the Phillies would advance and the Giants and Brewers would be out, thanks to their holding the tiebreaker advantage via intradivision record. Philadelphia would thus become MLB’s first team with an overall losing regular-season record to reach the postseason since the Royals in the strike-shortened 1981 season. And we haven’t even talked about the American League’s slotting mayhem yet.
Will it happen? We’ll see what Sunday brings.
Also of note: The Cubs clinched the NL Central despite absorbing a 9-5 beating from the White Sox, thanks to the Cardinals’ loss. … The Rays clinched the No. 1 seed in the American League with the 4-3 win over the Phillies, condemning Philadelphia to a ninth straight losing season. … The Twins’ 7-3 win over the Reds simultaneously put them in the clear driver’s seat to win the AL Central with a one-game lead over Chicago, which they need — if they wind up tied with the White Sox after Sunday, the Sox hold the tiebreaker. … The Indians’ 8-0 loss to the Pirates put their seeding in doubt; if they win and the White Sox lose, they’re No. 4 thanks to a tiebreaker advantage over Chicago, but if they fail to catch the Sox, they’ll be the No. 7 seed.
And if you really want cause to freak out, consider the Yankees’ situation. It wasn’t long ago that they seemed to be at least a lock for the No. 4 slot in the AL, but they’re just a game ahead of the Blue Jays for second place in the AL East and Toronto holds the tiebreaker advantage. So if the Yankees lose to the Marlins Sunday and the Blue Jays win, New York drops to the No. 8 seed — and is stuck facing the No. 1 Rays in the wild-card round.
Pennant race debate: Which player are you most excited to see this postseason?
David Schoenfield: Shane Bieber. The Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948, and they are hardly the favorites to win the American League, but Bieber is the pitcher most likely to have a Madison Bumgarner-in-2014 type of run and carry an otherwise mediocre team to the title.
Joon Lee: Tim Anderson finds himself in the middle of a chase not only with DJ LeMahieu for his second straight batting title but also with Cleveland Indians hurler Shane Bieber and teammate Jose Abreu for the American League MVP. Anderson is the heart and soul of the insurgent White Sox, and the 27-year-old shortstop will be making the first playoff appearance of his career. When considering those circumstances, his penchant for bringing excitement and flair to the field, and his dynamic bat at the top of the lineup on the South Side, Anderson figures to make a sizable impression with the eyes of baseball fans nationwide squarely focused on the young and exciting White Sox squad.
Sam Miller: Yu Darvish hasn’t appeared in the postseason since his disastrous pair of starts in the 2017 World Series, and in the ensuing period, he has changed teams, gotten hurt, been a bust, added yet another pitch and once more become — surprisingly but not too surprisingly — one of the world’s five best starting pitchers. He has never had the control over his arsenal that he has now, and nobody is more of a threat to throw a no-hitter in any given start. Darvish doesn’t need to redeem himself for the 2017 World Series — his career is so much more than those two starts — but it’ll be really satisfying to watch him play the ace this October.
Bradford Doolittle: In both 1997 (Livan Hernandez) and 2003 (Josh Beckett), the Marlins’ championship runs were fueled by a hot, emergent pitcher. Although I’m not predicting that Miami will go on a title romp if it gets into the playoffs, Sixto Sanchez could be that kind of emergent pitcher for the team this October. Both his traditional results and his Statcast metrics are elite, and he could be going up against a club that has never seen him in the opener of a best-of-three series. That opponent could end up being the Dodgers.
Alden Gonzalez: Sixto Sanchez because I don’t think anybody has an answer for him at the moment.
Key games ahead
Marlins-Yankees, Sunday (3:05 p.m. ET): Both teams are already in, but the Yankees could use the win, because if they lose and the Blue Jays win, they drop to the No. 8 seed.
Padres-Giants, Sunday (3:05 p.m. ET): The Giants have to win and have to count on the Cardinals to advance.
Brewers-Cardinals, Sunday (3:15 p.m. ET): The winner advances to the postseason, and … so could the loser? It’s a weird situation, but only in 2020.
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