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The week ahead in MLB playoff races: September 26-October 2

Clinches and squabbles for seeding

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

There were some clinches this past week, but the Wild Card races that were previously all about jockeying for seeding are... still about jockeying for seeding. There’s a huge weekend showdown between the Braves and the Mets looming, but beyond that... eh.

NL East

A split in Philadelphia pushed the Braves (95-58) another half-game back in the division, where they trail the Mets (97-57) by 1.5 at the moment. The Braves had a chance to force a tie heading into the final week and could have done so if not for a couple of back-to-back losses in easy matchups. In any case, it’s looking like it’s really going to come down to the final weekend, which already seemed like a near-certainty after the Mets bungled that series against the Cubs.

Mets’ upcoming schedule:

  • vs. MIA: Carrasco v. Lopez (56%)
  • vs. MIA: Walker v. Luzardo (56%)
  • @ ATL: Bassitt v. Fried (36%)
  • @ ATL: deGrom v. Wright (54%)
  • @ ATL: Scherzer v. Morton (44%)

Sum win probability: 2.46

Braves’ upcoming schedule:

  • @ WSN: Elder v. Abbott (59%)
  • @ WSN: Muller v. Espino (56%)
  • @ WSN: Odorizzi v. Gray (55%)
  • vs NYM: Fried v. Bassitt (64%)
  • vs NYM: Wright v. deGrom (46%)
  • vs NYM: Morton v. Scherzer (56%)

Sum win probability: 3.36

It’s possible that the Braves could gain about a game this week, but without a sweep over the weekend, they lose the tiebreaker and will need to gain an extra game over the final weekend to take the division. This weekend will probably be a big deal... although the rotation shuffle and sending out a Triple-A-esque trio against the Nationals could potentially dampen the relevance of that weekend series if it breaks poorly for the Braves.

Last 2 NL Wild Card Spots

Current status: Padres (85-68) lead the Phillies (83-69) by 1.5 games. Brewers (82-71) are 1.5 games out of the final spot.

This race narrowed a tiny bit over the last week, as the Brewers are marginally closer by adding a half-game. The Brewers currently have the same odds of sneaking into the playoffs as the Braves do of winning the division.

  • Padres: 3 vs. LAD, 3 vs. CHW; sum win probability = 3.38
  • Phillies: 3 @ CHC, 4 @ WSN; sum win probability = 4.33
  • Brewers: 2 vs. STL, 4 vs. MIA; sum win probability = 3.62

The Phillies have a very easy week (as do the other two teams, really) though they are the only ones playing games on the road among the competitors here. This “race” might come down to the final series of the year.

AL Wild Card

There’s no real point in discussing schedule here, since there are very few implications. The Blue Jays (86-67) now lead the Rays (84-69) by 2.5 games; the Mariners (83-69) are a half-game behind the Rays. The Jays and Rays just split a four-game series this weekend, and the Rays actually visit the Guardians (86-67) this weekend, whom they might end up playing next weekend if the Mariners overtake them. Seattle has scuffled for two weeks but has a way easier last ten games than the Rays, but again, we’re really just talking about which team will play Toronto or Cleveland at this point. Fun.

Non-Braves games to watch (assuming pitching matchups hold):

Honestly, this is really just about the Braves-Mets series at this point.

  • Monday: Yankees @ Blue Jays, Luis Severino vs. Kevin Gausman. Probably the bigger bit of intrigue here is whether Gausman will finish as the fWAR leader for pitchers in the AL and still not win the Cy Young Award, or whether Justin Verlander will overtake him and win both the fWAR title and the Cy.
  • Tuesday: Yankees @ Blue Jays, Jameson Taillon vs. Jose Berrios. Okay, look, I kind of think it’d be funny if the Yankees lost out, and the Blue Jays somehow won the AL East. It’s basically impossible, because of games like this, but if the Jays win...
  • Wednesday: Dodgers @ Padres, Julio Urias vs. Joe Musgrove. This is one of those games where the Padres might need to win given how easy the pitching matchups facing the Phillies are. But even if they don’t, oh no — facing the Cardinals instead of the Braves/Mets, the horror. The incentives under this playoff system are stupid.
  • Thursday: Rangers @ Mariners, Jon Gray vs. Marco Gonzales. This is a tough pitching matchup for the scuffling Mariners, while the Rays play the Guardians. Though, again, who cares at this point?
  • Friday: Rays @ Astros, Drew Rasmussen vs. Jose Urquidy. The Rays have a very tough schedule to determine their seeding fate, and this is a bit of a respite that they might need to win to avoid the dreaded fate of... playing the Guardians instead of the Blue Jays?
  • Saturday: White Sox @ Padres, Dylan Cease vs. Mike Clevinger. This is mostly just an excuse to watch very good pitching human Dylan Cease against a team still playing relevant games.
  • Sunday: Marlins @ Brewers, Pablo Lopez vs. Adrian Houser. The Brewers could be hanging on by a thread here, and this isn’t a great matchup. Maybe this is the day their season effectively ends?

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