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

Teams are locking up spots in the 2022 MLB playoffs. We break down what this weekend’s schedule means for the slate.

Houston Astros v Detroit Tigers
Chas McCormick #20 and Jeremy Pena #3 of the Houston Astros celebrate a 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers with teammates at Comerica Park on September 14, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that there are only three weekends remaining in the MLB regular season, but that’s the case, and there are still a lot of pieces to put in place to complete the postseason puzzle. We know the Los Angeles Dodgers have locked up the NL West. Everything else has yet to be decided, at least officially. Let’s take a look around the league at all of the crucial series this weekend and what it means as teams vie for playoff positioning.

AL East

Weekend series

Rays vs. Rangers
Blue Jays vs. Orioles
Yankees vs. Brewers

What it means

The Rays, as of this writing, have lost five of their past seven games to fall from the No. 1 AL Wild Card spot to the No. 3. But they are currently beating the Blue Jays, the AL Wild Card leader, in the finale of their five-game series in Toronto. If the Rays hang on, that means the three AL Wild Card teams — Toronto, Seattle and Tampa Bay — would be separated in the standings by only a half-game. The Rays definitely have the easiest weekend series of the four AL East contenders; the Rangers have been out of contention for a while and have dropped 14 of their past 18 games.

With a strong series against the Orioles, the Blue Jays can not only strengthen their playoff standing, they could also pretty much put Baltimore’s playoff chances to bed. Although their competitiveness has been one of the best stories of the season, the Orioles sit four games behind the Rays (five when you consider that Tampa Bay owns the head-to-head tiebreaker) with only 20 games remaining.

The Yankees, much maligned for the past couple of months have seemingly righted their ship recently, winning eight of their past 10 games. They now sit six games in front of the Blue Jays for the division lead. New York’s magic number to clinch a playoff berth is down to seven.

AL Central

Weekend series schedule

Guardians vs. Twins (5 games)
White Sox vs. Tigers

What it means

The Guardians, three games up in the AL Central, could all but end the Twins’ quest for the postseason with a series win in Minneapolis. Minnesota is currently in third place in the Central, 4.5 games behind Cleveland. And no AL Central club is going to earn a Wild Card spot. It’s division or bust for everyone else.

Between those two teams lie the White Sox, who won a critical swing game in Cleveland on Thursday. Lose that, and Chicago would have been essentially five games in back of the Guardians due to their head-to-head tiebreaker with only 18 games remaining. Instead, the White Sox used five home runs to pull to within three games of Cleveland in the standings, and now they will get the lowly Tigers, against whom they are 10-3 this season.

AL West

Weekend series schedule

Astros vs. Athletics
Mariners vs. Angels

What it means

The Astros will be the next team to clinch a playoff berth, and it could happen as soon as Friday night. All it would take is a couple of victories over the A’s. Or, the A’s could win either of their first two games against Oakland and still clinch by the end of Friday if the Blue Jays lose to Rays on Thursday (they currently are losing) and the Orioles lose to the Blue Jays on Friday. The Astros’ magic number to win the AL West is at seven.

The Mariners are right in the middle of that three-team crowd in the AL Wild Card race. We’re a loooong way from knowing how that trio will pan out, but it’s likely that those three teams will ultimately make the playoffs. That’s obviously big news for Seattle, which hasn’t experienced postseason baseball since 2001. The Mariners struggled with the Angels during the early part of the season, but they are 4-2 against them since the beginning of August.

NL East

Weekend series schedule

Mets vs. Pirates
Braves vs. Phillies

What it means

You would think the Mets could create some space between themselves and the Braves in the NL East with their upcoming series versus the bottom-feeding Pirates. But since New York has lost seven of its past 12 games — all against teams with a sub-.500 record — they can’t take anything for granted. Their magic number to clinch a playoff berth is seven.

The Braves, a half-game behind the Mets in that division race, are 7.5 games ahead of the Phillies for the No. 1 NL Wild Card seed. The Phillies have seven games remaining versus the Braves, plus three against the Astros and two against the Blue Jays. So while they are sitting comfortably with the No. 2 NL Wild Card, they still have work to do to secure their postseason spot.

NL Central

Weekend series schedule

Brewers vs. Yankees
Cardinals vs. Reds

What it means

Milwaukee trails San Diego by two games for the final NL Wild Card. But if the Brewers can survive this upcoming six-game homestand against the Yankees and Mets, they could make a last-minute charge into a playoff spot. After those two series, 11 of Milwaukee’s 13 remaining games will come against sub.-500 clubs.

The NL Central was once a compelling race, but the Cardinals have turned that division into a laugher as their second-half surge has put them eight games in front of Milwaukee. St. Louis is more focused on tracking down the NL East leader for the No. 2 seed in the National League playoffs, which comes with a first-round bye. Currently, the Cardinals are 4.5 games behind the Mets for that precious No. 2 seed.

NL West

Weekend series schedule

Dodgers vs. Giants
Padres vs. Diamondbacks

What it means

At this point, the Dodgers are just coasting. They’ve secured their ninth NL West title over the past 10 seasons. They are 10 games in front of the Mets for the best record in the NL, and they are 5.5 games ahead of the Astros for home-field advantage through the World Series. All they are worried about now is just making sure their key pieces are healthy when the playoffs begin.

The Padres are just treading water at 5-6 this month. They hold a two-game edge — and the head-to-head tiebreaker — over the Brewers for the third NL Wild Card spot. San Diego could create some more room with a successful series in Arizona this weekend. It is 11-4 versus the Diamondbacks this season.