Major League Baseball’s 2023 season is sprinting towards a thrilling climax, and with just a handful of games left on the schedule, the drama for the remaining postseason spots is intensifying.
In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the teams grappling for their chance at postseason glory, highlighting pivotal matchups, and shedding light on the teams and players who’ve dominated headlines this season.
The Current Playoff Landscape
In the midst of an adrenaline-packed season, four teams have already punched their tickets to the playoffs. The Orioles, Rays, Braves, and Dodgers have all secured their spots. As we peer a little deeper, the Twins and Brewers seem poised to clinch their respective divisions, the AL Central and NL Central, respectively.
With these teams making their presence felt, eight coveted spots still beckon teams dreaming of postseason action.
AL West Drama
Arguably, the most riveting divisional race this year is the AL West. The Astros, holding onto their first-place position with a record of 85-68, are feeling the pressure from the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners, who are both breathing down their necks at 84-68. With the Mariners possessing the season tiebreaker over the Astros and the Rangers holding one over the Mariners, it’s set to be a nail-biting finale.
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The AL Wild Card Picture
Beyond the divisional races, the AL Wild Card chase is equally gripping. While the Rays are comfortably nestled in the No. 4 seed, their ambition is to overtake the Orioles in the AL East.
In this tangle, the Astros, Rangers, Mariners, and Blue Jays are embroiled in a fierce contest for the remaining two Wild Card positions.
NL Wild Card Overview
Turning our attention to the National League, the Diamondbacks have managed to climb their way into the second wild card position. The Phillies, though currently holding the No. 4 seed, can’t afford to rest on their laurels.
Other teams in contention, like the Marlins, Cubs, Reds, and Giants, have their sights firmly set on the postseason, though the Giants are facing a steep uphill climb.
Amidst the chaos of the playoff race, some teams are showing a resurgence. The Padres, despite having an under .500 record all summer, have sparked hopes with a seven-game winning streak as of Friday. However, the clock is ticking, and it remains to be seen if their efforts will pay off. It might be too little too late.
2023’s Missed Opportunities
Every season has its share of disappointments, and 2023 is no different. The Padres, Yankees, Mets, and Cardinals—all of whom made their mark in the 2022 postseason—find themselves on the brink of missing out this year.
Another notable mention is the Angels, who, after a dismal August, decided to bench Shohei Ohtani for the remainder of the season.
A Recap of MLB’s Postseason Format
For those new to the scene or who need a quick refresher, MLB’s postseason system involves 12 teams—three division winners and three wild card teams from both leagues. The two division winners with the best records get a bye to the Division Series, while the other eight teams battle it out in best-of-three Wild Card Series.
A Historic AL West Race
To put things in perspective, the American League West’s current competition is one for the ages. It’s touted as one of the tightest races in over half a century of baseball history, especially when there are 10 or fewer games left.
According to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, this is the first time that three teams in the same division were all within half a game or fewer of first place, with all having 10 games or fewer left to play since divisions began in 1969.
The Road Ahead
The Mariners open a three-game series at Texas on Friday, with both teams tied for the third and final Wild Card spot in the American League. Seattle then goes home for three games against the Astros and four more against the Rangers.
Houston hosts the Royals, one of the worst teams in the majors, this weekend before visiting the Mariners and Diamondbacks, who are contending for an NL Wild Card spot.
The Mariners and Rangers last met the first weekend in June, when Texas swept three games at home, including 16-6 and 12-3 wins.
While the Mariners are just 1-5 against the Rangers this season so far, they are 8-2 against the Astros. Houston went 9-4 against Texas this season, hitting 16 home runs and outscoring them 39-10 in a three-game road sweep two weeks ago to claim first place in the AL West for the first time all season.
That said, no team controls its destiny as much as the Mariners because of their schedule.
“These tight (races), they can build character. So, let’s see what kind of character we’ve got,” Astros janitor Dusty Baker said recently.
The tension and drama surrounding MLB’s postseason races serve as a testament to the unpredictable and captivating nature of the sport.
With teams vying for their shot at glory, every game, every inning, and every pitch counts.
It promises to be an enthralling finish to the 2023 MLB season.