By Ron Johnson
With the 2023 MLB Season drawing closer and closer to an end, we get to salute those who will be playing in the postseason as well as those who are taking a bow for the final time. For the Cardinals, it’ll be all about the return of Jordan Walker back to his hometown of Atlanta as they face the Braves and the curtain call for Adam Wainwright who will be pitching against his hometown team for the final time. But those are not the only topics that are making their rounds in the MLB.
At our first encounter, we were discussing the potential matchups in both leagues. And while one has seem to have stayed put (Baltimore), everyone below them have exchanged numbers like it’s a junior high dance. As we eye the teams looking to play in the AL side of the postseason, we focus on my new home’s version of Rally Birds in the form of the Seattle Mariners. On July 19, they were a game under .500. Back on August 21st, the day of that encounter between us, Seattle was looking at a Wild Card matchup against the Minnesota Twins.
Now on September 4th, they are one of the hottest teams in baseball NOT from California or Georgia, respectively. Back on that day, the Mariners were winners of six straight and were only three games back of the division leading Rangers. Heading into today, the Mariners are posting the best record in baseball since July 20th at 30-10 and have flew past both the Rangers and the defending champion Astros in the standings.
They now sit atop the AL West, hold the second seed (which includes that more important bye) and are in charge of their own destiny heading into the final full month of the regular season. The last time the Mariners were in first place this late was in 2001. That was the year before the postseason drought began for them, and in that year, they won 116 games, made it all the way to the ALCS…oh and their big-time slugger Julio Rodriguez was turning one.
Heading into the final month of the season, here is how the AL postseason looks:
(6) Houston vs. (3) Minnesota
(5) Texas vs. (4) Tampa Bay
(1) Baltimore and (2) Seattle would have byes into the ALDS
TIEBREAKER: In the AL West race, the Mariners have already clinched a tiebreaker over the Astros by winning eight of the teams’ first 10 matchups, with three to go.
The Blue Jays (1-2 vs. Texas) would need to win at least three of four over the Rangers in Toronto to claim the tiebreaker in case they finish deadlocked for the last AL Wild Card spot. (MLB.Com, 2023)
If you thought the NL was immune to a few shakeups, you were sadly mistaken. While the first two remained atop the NL mountain (with one of those assured to fall short in the postseason), the Braves and Dodgers looked down to see the Denver/LA/Dallas/STL Traffic Jam that was brewing below them in the NL Wild Card. And yes, it is indeed one hell of a ‘stop-and-go traffic jam.’
At our last encounter, we saw a potential NL Central showdown in the Wild Card between the Cubs and Brewers, while East collides with West with the Phillies and Giants. But last weekend, the madness got spilled into the regular punch, spiked it and caused a mosh pit the likes of which have been seen one too many times before.
By weekend’s end, the Giants, Marlins and Diamondbacks were knotted up three-way tie for the final wild card spot at 70-67, and the Reds were right behind them…at ZERO GAMES BACK with the Padres keeping themselves within striking distance after taking three of four from the Giants. Again, that was all this past weekend. So imagine how it looked for those of us who have been getting our football mentals back on track.
The NL will be the most likely hotspot where tiebreakers could become a factor with four teams all vying for that final wild card spot and all four teams tied for that spot as well. But just to keep you in the know of what the postseason could look like on the National League side, here’s what you need to know:
(6) San Francisco vs. (3) Milwaukee
(5) Chicago Cubs vs. (4) Philadelphia
(1) Atlanta and (2) LA Dodgers would receive byes into the ALDS
TIEBREAKER: The Giants have locked up tiebreakers with the Brewers, Reds and Phillies, which could come into play for either the final NL Wild Card spot or seeding. San Francisco also needs to win one of two from Arizona next week to clinch the advantage over the D-Backs. (MLB.Com, 2023)
Here is what we know right now: Nobody has actually clinched anything. That means no division champs, no wild card berths, not even a playoff berth has been etched in stone as of yet. And for the Braves, that almost feels like an insult. At 90-46, Atlanta has lowered its playoff magic number to five and its division magic number to 12. As for the Dodgers, who sit at 84-52, they have a magic number of 12 if they have any intentions of clinching the NL West crown once again.
Heading into the final month, the races are tighter now than they were back on August 21st. The Orioles have a two and a half game lead over the Rays for the East, and the Mariners lead both the Astros and Rangers by one game. The Brewers currently lead the Cubs by three and half games for possession of the NL Central.
As for the Wild Card Picture, the Rangers and Astros lead Toronto by a game and a half for the final berth, while as stated earlier, the Giants, Marlins and D-Backs are all tied for the final spot with Cincinnati in a virtual tie with the trio as well.
While the MLB postseason looks ready to go at this point, there are still some teams that are not ready to wave the white flag just yet. Before you even ask, yes, it is the usual suspects: Boston, NY Yankees, NY Mets, Cleveland, San Diego and Detroit. And while their odds of punching their ticket look to be slim-to-none, they may enjoy playing spoiler to a few teams along the way.