Somehow, there are only two days left in the regular season (maybe). Six months of non-stop, regular-season baseball will transition into the high-stakes postseason tournament that will begin on Tuesday with the four Wild Card Series.
Seven of 12 playoff spots have already been guaranteed, and the last five teams could be known by the end of the day today. The potential tiebreaker scenarios make these games even more important.
The 5 teams that can clinch a playoff spot on Saturday are:
Here’s a deeper look at the games on Saturday that you won’t want to miss.
Rays at Blue Jays (Armstrong vs. Ryu), 3:07 p.m. ET
Toronto has pretty much been in playoff limbo for most of the season — either barely hanging onto a Wild Card spot or being on the outside looking in. The Jays played well recently but have been unable to ultimately guarantee their postseason spot. Despite winning on Friday night, their magic number to clinch a playoff spot remains at one thanks to the Mariners beating the Rangers.
A win in any of its next two games will get Toronto into the playoffs. Alternately, if the Blue Jays, Astros and Mariners all lose, then Toronto also clinches a spot.
The Rays already guaranteed their playoff fate by clinching a spot on Sept. 17 and the top AL Wild Card spot with Baltimore taking the AL East on Thursday. The Rays could have the motivation to knock out a potential divisional foe but it might behoove them to just make it through this series healthy after a barrage of injuries has impacted them throughout the year.
How Blue Jays can clinch AL Wild Card spot on Saturday: Win against the Rays OR Seattle loses to Texas
Marlins at Pirates (Chargois vs. Priester), 6:35 p.m. ET
It’s been a chaotic week for the Marlins, who were impacted by heavy rain throughout their series against the Mets at Citi Field. After a postponement of Tuesday’s game and a subsequent doubleheader on Wednesday, Miami completed a comeback to take the lead in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game — only for that game to be suspended — to be finished on Monday, if needed, if the Marlins haven’t clinched, or for postseason seeding.
Despite all that, following Friday’s win at PNC Park (combined with a Cubs loss in their series opener in Milwaukee), Miami is in complete control of its destiny and will make the playoffs with one win in its remaining two games.
How Marlins can clinch NL Wild Card spot on Saturday: Win against the Pirates OR both Cubs and Reds lose
Cubs at Brewers (Wicks vs. Lauer), 7:10 p.m. ET
On Sept. 6, FanGraphs’ playoff odds gave the Cubs — who had a 76-64 record and a stronghold on the second NL Wild Card spot — a 92.6% chance of making the playoffs. Since then, Chicago has gone 6-14 and fallen from an almost-certain playoff team to possibly seeing its season end this weekend. After a tough series sweep at the hands of the Braves earlier this week, the Cubs lost the opener against the Brewers on Friday. Because they are on the losing end of tiebreakers against each competing NL Wild Card team, they basically need to win the next two games to stay alive.
Milwaukee has already locked up the NL Central and No. 3 NL seed. The Brewers will host the Wild Card Series against the No. 6 seed, possibly against these same Cubs. While they don’t have anything to play for in terms of their own playoff seed, the Brewers can impact who they play based on how this series unfolds.
How Cubs can clinch NL Wild Card spot: They cannot clinch anything on Saturday. The earliest they can clinch is Monday: Cubs win final two games and Marlins lose final three, including completion of suspended game with Mets that Miami currently leads 2-1 in the ninth. That game is scheduled to resume on Monday. (Cubs also need Reds to lose at least one more game.)
Reds at Cardinals (Phillips vs. Rom), 7:15 p.m. ET
The Reds kept their postseason hopes alive with a huge 19-2 win over the Cardinals on Friday. Cincinnati has been in the postseason mix for months now and nothing has changed as the final days of the regular season come to an end. Friday represented the perfect trio of events the Reds needed to make this playoff berth a reality: They won while both the Cubs and D-backs lost (they hold tiebreakers over each of those teams).
How Reds can clinch NL Wild Card spot: Cincinnati can’t clinch a spot on Saturday. There are multiple paths to a playoff berth but the easiest one is the Reds winning out and the Marlins and Cubs losing their remaining games — which would guarantee Cincinnati’s spot in the playoffs. If the four competing NL Wild Card teams finished with the same record, the Marlins and Reds would get the final two spots. Here’s how every tiebreaker scenario breaks down.
Rangers at Mariners (Heaney vs. Castillo), 7:15 p.m. ET
How about this finish for the AL West division title? After the Rangers swept the Mariners last weekend — and the Astros were swept by the Royals at home — it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Texas would hold on to win its first division title since 2016. Well, about that. After the Rangers’ two straight losses against the Mariners, the Astros are now just a game back of Texas for the division lead — and the possibility of a potential four-team tie for two playoff spots is very much in play.
Inversely, the Mariners were in dire straits after being swept in Texas last weekend and losing two of three games against Houston earlier this week. However, Seattle winning the first two games of its current series against the Rangers has put the Mariners right back in the mix. Luckily for the Mariners, winning the final two games and sweeping the Rangers gets them into the playoffs. They hold tiebreaker advantages in any of the possible three-team or four-team ties.
How Rangers can clinch AL West on Saturday: Beat Seattle AND Houston loses to Arizona
How Rangers can clinch AL Wild Card spot (at least) on Saturday: Beat Seattle AND Houston wins against Arizona
How Mariners can clinch AL West: Win both vs. Rangers, plus Houston goes 1-1 vs. D-backs. All three teams would be 89-73, Seattle wins tiebreak and takes division crown in a three-way tie.
How Mariners can clinch AL Wild Card spot: Win both vs. Rangers plus Houston goes 0-2 vs. D-backs OR Seattle goes 1-1 vs. Texas and Houston loses both to D-backs.
Astros at D-backs (Verlander vs. Kelly), 8:10 p.m. ET
This is unfamiliar territory for an Astros team that has usually clinched a playoff berth weeks before the regular season ends. After making the playoffs every season from 2017-22 — including World Series titles in ’17 and ’22 — Houston is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016. It’s been a bizarre finish for the Astros, who are partially in this position due to losing multiple series against the A’s and Royals in recent weeks.
Taking the series against Seattle earlier this week and the opener against the D-backs on Friday, however, has put Houston in a good spot to clinch a playoff berth. The Astros can clinch a playoff spot with a win on Saturday. In addition, if Houston wins both of their remaining games and Seattle does the same, the Astros would be the lone AL West team with 90 wins and would take the division.
The D-backs, meanwhile, are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017. All they need is a win to clinch a spot, something they were unable to do despite a late rally on Friday night. While Arizona will roll out the reliable Merrill Kelly on Saturday night, the Astros will counter with Justin Verlander in what should be a heck of a pitching matchup with big playoff implications.
How Astros can clinch an AL Wild Card spot on Saturday: Win against the D-backs
How D-backs can clinch an NL Wild Card spot on Saturday: Win against the Astros OR both Cubs and Reds lose
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