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What this weekend means for magic numbers, Wild card races for 2022 MLB playoffs

We’re going over everything you need to know for magic numbers and the playoff race for the weekend of Sept. 23.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves
Vaughn Grissom #18 of the Atlanta Braves is out at second as Jean Segura #2 of the Philadelphia Phillies turns and throws to first during the eighth inning at Truist Park on September 18, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

We are heading into the penultimate weekend of the 2022 MLB regular season. The division races haven’t been too compelling, but there is still a lot to sort out with the wild cards in each league. Here’s a primer of what’s at stake this weekend on the diamond.

AL East

Weekend series

Yankees vs. Red Sox
Rays vs. Blue Jays

What it means

The Yankees have somewhat straightened themselves out following a pretty poor second half of the season. More importantly, they are getting healthier; first baseman Anthony Rizzo, relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman and starting pitcher Luis Severino all returned to play in recent days. Reliever Scott Effross was activated off the injured list on Thursday. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry will take a back seat this weekend to Aaron Judge’s trek toward home run history and the American League Triple Crown. With either one win over the Red Sox or one Orioles loss to Houston this weekend, the Yankees will clinch a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive season. Their magic number to win the division is eight.

The Rays and Blue Jays are 8.5 and 6.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, so a division title is likely out of the reach of each club. But they are fighting hard for position in the AL Wild Card race. The Blue Jays currently hold the No. 1 spot there, two games in front of the Rays, who hold the second wild card. With two wins in this four-game series, Tampa Bay would clinch the tiebreaker in terms of wild card seeding if the two clubs finish with identical records.

AL Central

Weekend series schedule

Guardians vs. Rangers
White Sox vs. Tigers
Twins vs. Angels

What it means

The Guardians have put the AL Central to bed for all intents and purposes with their play over the past week. Heading into their Sept. 16 series opener versus the Twins, Cleveland sat three games in front of the White Sox and four games ahead of Minnesota. Since then, the Guardians have gone 6-1 against those two teams heading into Thursday’s series finale in Chicago. The Guardians’ success has padded their lead to six games over the White Sox and nine games over their Twins with only 13 games remaining. Cleveland’s magic number is seven. It will eventually earn its fourth division crown over the past seven seasons and open the AL playoffs as the No. 3 seed, hosting the No. 6 seed — currently the Seattle Mariners — in a best-of-three series at Progressive Field.

The White Sox and Twins are effectively done barring a massive collapse from either the Guardians or the Mariners. Those two AL Central clubs are currently 5.5 and 8.5 games behind Seattle for the final AL Wild Card spot. But again, with only 13 games left to play, there likely isn’t enough time left for either to get into the postseason. The Guardians basically ended the 2022 season for both teams this week.

AL West

Weekend series schedule

Astros vs. Orioles
Mariners vs. Royals

What it means

The Astros have won the AL West for the fifth time in the previous six seasons and are closing in on securing the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs as they have an eight-game lead over the Yankees for that coveted spot. Houston (+175) is the favorite to win the AL pennant, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

The Orioles’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. Still, that’s quite an accomplishment this late in the year for a team that was widely expected to lose 100 games for the fourth consecutive full season. Baltimore, at 77-71, are the first team out of the AL playoff race right now, four games behind the Mariners for that third and final wild card spot. However, 10 of their 14 remaining games will come against the Astros, Yankees and Blue Jays.

Conversely, the Mariners have the easiest remaining schedule of any team in baseball — but they haven’t taken advantage of it recently. The Mariners have dropped six of their past seven games, all against the moribund Angels and Athletics. After Thursday’s series finale in Oakland, the Mariners will head to Kansas City for the games before ending their regular season with a long homestand versus the Rangers, A’s and Tigers. That slate should be a cakewalk, but Seattle is making things difficult right now. The team has scored exactly one run in each of its last four defeats.

NL East

Weekend series schedule

Mets vs. Athletics
Braves vs. Phillies

What it means

The Mets have an opportunity to extend their current one-game division lead over the Braves over the next five days as they face the A’s and Marlins. Meanwhile, Atlanta will be dealing with the wild card-contending Phillies over the next four days. The Mets and Braves have already clinched a playoff berth, and it just seems like we are destined to have this division decided when these rivals meet in Atlanta next weekend for a highly anticipated three-game set.

The Phillies snapped a five-game slide with a 10-inning win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday. They enter Thursday 2.5 games ahead of Milwaukee for the final NL Wild Card berth. Their schedule really lightens up after this Braves series; the Phillies’ next seven games afterward will be against the Cubs and Nationals.

NL Central

Weekend series schedule

Cardinals vs. Dodgers
Brewers vs. Reds

What it means

The Cardinals are in a horrific slump at the plate right now as they have scored a grand total of one run over their previous 43 innings. However, there’s zero reason for St. Louis to panic as it is 7.5 games ahead of Milwaukee in the NL Central and pretty much locked into the No. 3 seed for the NL playoffs. The Cardinals’ magic number to win the NL Central is six.

A wild card is the Brewers’ vehicle for a playoff berth. Sitting 2.5 games behind Philly, Milwaukee needs to go on a serious run over its final 13 games. They could gain some ground this weekend against the also-ran Reds. The Brewers will close their regular season with a nine-game homestand versus the Cardinals, Marlins and Diamondbacks.

NL West

Weekend series schedule

Dodgers vs. Cardinals
Padres vs. Rockies

What it means

The Dodgers are sitting pretty at an incredible 103-46. With four more wins, they will set a franchise record for single-season victories. They could still tie the MLB all-time record for wins in a season, but they would have to go undefeated over their final 13 contests. The Dodgers are the favorite to win the 2022 World Series as they are listed by DraftKings Sportsbook at +350. The Astros are second at +425.

While the runner-up in the National League East — the Mets or the Braves — will claim the No. 1 NL Wild Card, there is a tight ongoing battle for the Nos. 2 and 3 slots. San Diego currently holds the former thanks to a five-game win streak heading into Thursday’s finale versus the Cardinals. That has given the Padres a 1.5-game edge over the Phillies and a four-game advantage over the Brewers with 13 games remaining.