There is still plenty to be decided during the final weekend of MLB’s regular season. Maybe not as much as many fans would like — most of the divisions have already been claimed. But for a handful of teams, this weekend will go a long way toward deciding either their playoff position or if they make the playoffs at all. Here’s what you should know about this weekend’s matchups.
AL Wild Card race
The Rays could have sewed up a playoff spot earlier this week, but back-to-back 2-1 defeats in Cleveland means Tampa Bay will now be looking to party this weekend in Houston. Currently five games in front of the Orioles for the third and final AL Wild Card, the Rays just need one win or one Baltimore loss to go dancing.
The Blue Jays are already in thanks to the Rays’ loss on Thursday. They are now looking to lock up the top AL Wild Card and guarantee themselves home-field advantage throughout the first round of the playoffs. Toronto enters this home series versus Boston with a 1.5-game advantage over the Mariners for that top spot.
Seattle is on the verge of ending its two-decade-long playoff drought. All it needs is one win over the A’s or an Orioles loss. The Mariners are a half-game in front of the Rays for the No. 2 AL Wild Card.
Mets vs. Braves
This is the series that the baseball world will be following most all weekend long. The Mets, who have led this division for the bulk of the season, hold a slim one-game edge over the Braves entering Friday’s series opener in Atlanta. Winning the NL East is of paramount importance as the victor will earn a bye through the Wild Card Round and get to avoid the Dodgers’ juggernaut until the NLCS. The team that finishes second in the division would get home-field advantage throughout its best-of-three Wild Card series, but a five-game set against the Dodgers lurks beyond that. Even if the Braves win two of three games this weekend, the Mets would still own first place in the NL East due to its advantage in the head-to-head tiebreaker. As of Friday, New York is 9-7 against Atlanta this season.
NL Wild Card race
While we know the NL East runner-up will take the top NL Wild Card spot, there are a lot of unknowns past that. The Phillies were in a good spot a couple of weeks ago, but a recent losing streak has put their playoff hopes in some peril. The good news is that a win Friday afternoon against the Nationals snapped a five-game skid and put them one game up on the Brewers for the final playoff spot in the NL. Although the Nationals have the worst record in MLB, Philadelphia can take nothing for granted, especially after just getting swept by the lowly Cubs earlier this week.
Following Philadelphia’s loss Thursday, Milwaukee had a chance to move into a tie for that third and final Wild Card, but the Brewers’ Freddy Peralta squandered a 2-0 lead when he served up a grand slam in the eighth inning in an eventual loss to Miami. The Brewers will get three more shots against the Marlins this weekend, but they will have to face presumptive NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara on Friday.
And then there are the Padres, who haven’t been playing all that well lately, but they have been great when compared to the slumping Phillies. San Diego is currently two games ahead of the Phillies for the second NL Wild Card spot. the Padres’ final six games are at home, split between the White Sox and Giants.