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AL Wild Card update: Red-hot Mariners crash the postseason party

Seven teams are fighting for three spots in the American League. We take a look at the Wild Card picture as the 2023 regular season nears its final month.

Seattle Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suarez celebrates his two-run shot in the top of the second during the football game between the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on August, 19, 2023 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the dust fully settled from the 2023 trade deadline, we’re getting a sense of the new landscape around the league as the we hit the sprint to the regular-season finish. Preseason expectations are out the window; gone are the days where teams and fans can preach patience over a long season. It’s now or never, and the Wild Card races in both leagues are looking like they’ll go right down to the wire once again. The third Wild Card spot, first implemented last season, will give us six teams in the postseason on each side and byes for the top two seeds in each league. That means the regular-season stakes have never been higher, or involved more teams — and that added drama is palpable as we near the month of September.

So: Where does your favorite team stand? Below we’ll go over the AL Wild Card picture with up-to-the-minute standings and analysis.

AL Wild Card standings, August 21

1st Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays — 75-51, +5.5
2nd Wild Card: Houston Astros — 70-54, +1.5
3rd Wild Card: Seattle Mariners — 68-55, —

Toronto Blue Jays — 68-56, 0.5 GB
Boston Red Sox — 65-58, 3.0 GB
Los Angeles Angels — 61-64, 8.0 GB
New York Yankees — 60-63, 8.0 GB

It’s worth noting before we get going that both the AL East and AL West are in flux in either direction: The Rays are just 2.5 games back of the Orioles (although four back in the loss column) for the East lead, while the Astros (2.5 GB) and Mariners (4 GB) are breathing down the Rangers’ neck out west — meaning that either Baltimore or Texas could fall back into this picture if they’re not careful. (The less said about the AL Central, the better, but suffice to say that the Twins will be taking that division and no one else is remotely in the playoff picture.)

The biggest mover and shaker here is Seattle, who’s stolen the third and final Wild Card spot from Toronto thanks to an MLB-best 31-13 record since the start of July. The Mariners didn’t do a ton at the deadline — in fact, they actually dealt away closer Paul Sewald — but with Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby anchoring the rotation and Julio Rodriguez on an all-time heater, they’ve been as good as anyone for nearly two months now and could very well keep climbing up these standings. (The Mariners also have a substantially easier schedule than Texas the rest of the way, with matchups against the White Sox, Royals and A’s coming up before closing the regular season with three series against the Rangers and Astros that will likely decide the West and at least one Wild Card spot.)

With 60% of its Opening Day rotation lost for the season due to injury and Wander Franco’s status uncertain moving forward, Tampa Bay certainly isn’t trending in the right direction to catch the O’s in the AL East. But they managed to stabilize things a bit on their recent West Coast trip, and they banked so many wins early on that they’re still in very good shape for a postseason spot.

That’s also partially because of the abject disaster that’s been the month of August for both the Angels and Yankees. Both teams entered the trade deadline determined to contend, but both have seen their records plummet in recent weeks — leaving the Blue Jays and Red Sox as the only serious Wild Card contenders. This is shaping up to be a four-team race between Houston, Seattle, Toronto and Boston for two playoff spots, with Boston getting by far the toughest road home (.521 opponent winning percentage, including an upcoming Astros-Dodgers-Astros swing that could decide their season) and Toronto (.486) and Houston (.497) the easiest.