Another exciting week of baseball is in the books as we make our way through August and towards the playoffs. There are a lot of intriguing storylines to keep track of, including both Wild Card races and the race for the AL Central. There’s also the award races to consider, with both Cy Young frontrunners in Justin Verlander and Sandy Alcantara pitching on Wednesday against the Rangers and Phillies, respectively.
The Orioles are still somehow in playoff contention and Fernando Tatis Jr. is perhaps just a week away from returning to a loaded Padres lineup. For Nats fans, there’s still some things to get excited about, as the team now has 5 prospects in Baseball America’s updated 100, including 3 in the Top 50 (Abrams, Hassell, Wood). Both Abrams and Gore should be making their Nats debuts over the coming weeks but until then, it’s going to be a tough ride. And that’s why I’m here to provide you with some alternative games to watch!
Current Playoff Picture
This year will be the first year with expanded playoffs as the field as gone from 10 teams to 12. Gone are the one game Wild Cards, replaced with a Wild Card Round that pits the #3-6 seeds in each league in a best of 3 series with the higher seed hosting all three games of the series. The top 2 teams in each league will get a bye into the Divisional Round.
1. New York Yankees 70-39 (AL East Leaders)
2. Houston Astros 70-40 (AL West Leaders)
3. Minnesota Twins 57-51 (AL Central Leaders)
4. Toronto Blue Jays 60-48 (Wildcard #1)
5. Seattle Mariners 59-51 (Wildcard #2/3)
6. Tampa Bay Rays 58-50 (Wildcard #2/3)
Cleveland Guardians 56-52 (1 GB in AL Central, 2 GB in Wild Card)
Baltimore Orioles 56-52 (2 GB in Wild Card)
Chicago White Sox 55-53 (2 GB in AL Central, 3 GB in Wild Card)
Boston Red Sox 54-56 (5 GB in Wild Card)
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 75-33 (NL West Leaders)
2. New York Mets 70-39 (NL East Leaders)
3. St. Louis Cardinals 60-48 (NL Central Leaders)
4. Atlanta Braves 64-46 (Wildcard #1)
5. Philadelphia Phillies 60-48 (Tied-Wildcard #2)
6. San Diego Padres 61-50 (Wildcard #3)
Milwaukee Brewers 58-50 (2 GB back in NL Central, 1.5 GB in Wildcard)
San Francisco Giants 53-55 (6.5 GB in Wildcard)
Three Series to Watch
1. Yankees (70-39, 1st AL East) at Mariners (59-51, 2nd AL West)
Monday, 10:10: Jameson Taillon (10-2, 3.96 ERA) vs Logan Gilbert (10-4, 3.09 ERA)
Tuesday, 10:10: Gerrit Cole (9-4, 3.56 ERA) vs Luis Castillo (5-4, 2.95 ERA)
Wednesday, 4:10: Nestor Cortes (9-3, 2.57 ERA) vs Robbie Ray (8-8, 3.96 ERA)
The Yankees are 9-16 since the All Star Break and were just swept over the weekend by the surging Cardinals. Now they’ll head to Seattle to face the Mariners, who just took two of three from them in the Bronx last week without Julio Rodriguez and Ty France in their lineup. The Yankees are just half a game up on the Astros for the AL’s best record and their pitching is showing signs of strain, despite the acquisition of Frankie Montas at the deadline.
The Mariners, meanwhile, are currently 59-51 after splitting a 4-game series over the weekend with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Mariners are 11 games back of the Astros in the AL West, which means catching them for the division title is unlikely. Instead, they’ll focus on one of the three AL Wild Card spots as they look to clinch their first playoff berth since 2001. They’re currently tied with the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card standings for the 2nd and 3rd spots. They’re 2 games up on the Guardians and surprising Orioles.
The good news for the Mariners is that Mitch Haniger and Ty France are both back in the lineup. Even better news is that outfielder Jesse Winker looks to be heating up (finally) here in August. The American League walks leader is hitting just .230 on the season, but is 5 for 16 with 2 home runs and 5 RBIs in August, a month in which he normally plays at a high level (.338 batting average and 1.131 OPS in 81 August games). If he does get hot, that will go a long way for the Mariners playoff hopes. Their postseason odds (according to Baseball Reference) currently sits at 82.6%.
Andrew Benintendi was batting .320 for the Royals when the Yankees acquired him at the end of July. Since becoming a Yankee, he’s just 4 for 30. Aaron Judge remains hot as he looks to remain in the AL MVP conversation with Shoehei Ohtani. Judge is hitting .407 in his last 15 games with 10 home runs and 27 RBI. LeMahieu is also heating up and had 3 extra base hits in Sunday’s 12-9 loss to the Cardinals.
Tuesday’s pitching matchup is the most intriguing of the three games. Gerrit Cole’s last start was against the Mariners last Wednesday at Yankee Stadium and it was his worst outing of the season, giving up 6 runs to the Mariners in the first inning. Prior to that game he’d given up just 6 runs in the first inning all season. He’ll once again be facing new Mariners’ pitcher Luis Castillo, who has pitched very well against the Yankees this season, having only given up 4 earned runs in 13.2 innings and striking out 16.
None of the games will be on national broadcasts for some reason, but are available to stream through MLBtv.
2. Blue Jays (60-48, 2nd AL East) at Orioles (56-52, 4th AL East)
Monday, 7:05: Yusei Kikuchi (4-5, 4.86 ERA) vs Jordan Lyles (8-8, 4.40 ERA)
Tuesday, 7:15: Alek Manoah (12-5, 2.45 ERA) vs Kyle Bradish (1-4, 6.55 ERA)
Wednesday, 7:05: Jose Berrios (8-4, 5.19 ERA) vs Dean Kremer (4-3, 3.43 ERA)
I am just as shocked as everyone else that one of the “big” series of the week involves the Baltimore Orioles, who are somehow just 2 games back in the AL Wild Card. Before we get ahead of ourselves, we should note that the Orioles have a difficult remaining schedule and have just a 37.0% chance to make the postseason and they just traded away their clubhouse leader in Trey Mancini and All Star closer Jorge Lopez. The O’s have won 5 of 6 since a disappointing series loss to the Reds at the end of July.
The Blue Jays just took 3 of 4 in Minnesota and are looking to pad their lead at the top of the AL Wild Card standings. Toronto is just 4 games ahead of the Orioles in the standings, but their playoff odds currently sit at 87.3%.
Matt Chapman has been on a hot streak for the Jays over his last 15 games. He’s hitting .302 with 6 home runs in that span while playing his normal spectacular defense at third base. He’ll face Orioles pitcher Jordan Lyles on Monday night and will hope to continue his success against him. Chapman has hit .353 in 19 plate appearances against Lyles with 3 home runs. Vladdy is likewise heating up, having hit .400 over his last 15, though with only 3 home runs. The Blue Jays bolstered their lineup by adding Whit Merrifield (who has confirmed his vaccination status) who will most often play center field with George Springer a bit injured.
The Orioles avoid facing Kevin Gausman but they will have to face Alek Manoah on Tuesday, who is sandwiched between the struggling Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios. The Orioles have seen some improvement from their starting rotation lately. Dean Kremer, who will start on Wednesday for the O’s, went 6.1 scoreless innings last tie out. Kyle Bradish went 5 innings of 1 run ball and Lyles went 6.1 innings of 1 run ball against the Rangers last week. But the Blue Jays hitters aren’t the Rangers or Pirates.
None of the games will be on national broadcasts for some reason, but are available on MASN or to stream through MLBtv if you live outside the blackout area.
3. Rays (58-50, 3rd AL East) at Brewers (58-50, 2nd NL Central)
Tuesday, 8:10: TBD vs Brandon Woodruff (9-3, 3.49 ERA)
Wednesday 2:10: Jeffrey Springs (4-3, 2.50 ERA) vs Freddy Peralta (3-2, 4.46 ERA)
The Brewers were swept by the Pirates and lost a series to the Reds last week as they watched the St. Louis Cardinals overtake them for the NL Central lead. They now sit 2 games back of the Cards in the division and 1.5 games back of the Padres in the Wild Card. Their playoff odds have dropped to 41.0%.
The Rays, on the other hand, are 58-50 and 2 games up in the AL Wild Card. After splitting a two game series with the Blue Jays midweek last week, they took three of four from the Tigers in Detroit. They finish up their road trip with a short two game interleague series in Milwaukee. The Rays current playoff odds sit at 52.2%.
There’s not too much else to say about these two teams except that perhaps the Brewers are having some mental/clubhouse issues after trading Josh Hader at the deadline. From a front office view, the move made some sense, seeing that the Brewers want to compete long-term and tying up money in Hader for next year would’ve made that more difficult. But the team is competing now and just saw their GM trade one of the best closers in baseball and not acquire a big bat like Josh Bell (who went to the Padres). Perhaps their recent struggles against the Pirates and Reds have more to do with clubhouse energy and they’ll need to figure that out ASAP.
None of the games will be on national broadcasts for some reason, but are available to stream through MLBtv.
The Rest of the Games
Nationals (36-74) at Cubs (43-64)
Mon 8:05, Tue 8:05, Wed 2:20
If this wasn’t a Nationals-centric blog, there’d really be no need to highlight this series in any way but here we are as the worst team in the league travels to Wrigley for a 3-game series against a pretty bad Cubs team. The Cubs are coming off a series win against the Marlins over the weekend, while the Nats have lost 5 in a row and are now 1-5 since the deadline.
Reds (44-63) at Mets (70-39)
Mon 7:10, Tue 7:10, Wed 1:10 (MLB Network)
The Mets won a monster home series over the Braves during the weekend, taking four of the five games. Facing the Reds might seem like an easy match-up, but the Reds haven’t lost a series post-All Star Break and are 11-6 since then. The Reds will also avoid facing Scherzer and deGrom in this series.
Angels (46-63) at Athletics (41-68)
Mon 9:40, Tue 9:40, Wed 3:37
The only reason to tune into this series is to watch Shohei Ohtani. He pitches on Tuesday against James Kaprielian.
Pirates (44-64) at Diamondbacks (48-59)
Mon 9:40, Tue 9:40, Wed 9:40, Thu 3:40
The Pirates swept the Brewers last week before dropping their series against Baltimore over the weekend and now they’ll head to Arizona in another bottom of the barrel matchup this week.
Giants (53-55) at Padres (61-50)
Mon 9:40 (MLB Network), Tue 9:40, Wed 4:10
The Padres had all the attention last week after acquiring Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Josh Hader, and Brandon Drury at the trade deadline, but the Dodgers reminded them who the class of the league is with a weekend sweep of the Friars. The Giants were also swept by the Dodgers last week but took care of business against the Athletics over the weekend. The Padres are just 1.5 game ahead of the Brewers for the final NL Wild Card spot at the moment, so they’ll look to bounce back against the Giants, who currently sit 6.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race.
White Sox (55-53) at Royals (44-65)
Tue 4:10, Tue TBD, Wed 8:10, Thu 2:10
The White Sox and Royals play a doubleheader on Tuesday to kick off their mid-week 4-game series. The White Sox just split a 4-game series with the Texas Rangers and remain just 2 games back in the race for the AL Central. They’re 3 games back in the Wild Card and hoping they can go on a run here in August after what’s been a fairly disappointing season for a team with high expectations.
Marlins (49-59) at Phillies (60-48)
Tue 7:05, Wed 7:05, Thu 1:05
The Phillies are red hot and have won 5 in a row and 10 of their last 11. In their four-game series against the Nationals over the weekend, eight different Phillies players combined to hit 14 home runs, a franchise record. Noah Syndergaard will make his second Phillies start but unfortunately for him, it’ll be against NL Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcantara on Wednesday night.
Guardians (56-52) at Tigers (43-67)
Tue 7:10, Wed 7:10, Thu 1:10
The Guardians are coming off a hard earned split with the Astros over the weekend which included a dazzling start from Triston McKenzie in the finale on Sunday. The righty went 8 scoreless innings and outdueled Cristian Javier in a 1-0 Guardians victory. They’ll look to build off that momentum against the Tigers, who dropped 3 of 4 to the Rays at home.
Braves (64-46 at Red Sox (54-56)
Tue 7:10 (TBS), Wed 7:10
After dropping 4 of 5 in a crucial series against the New York Mets over the weekend, the Atlanta Braves are 6.5 games back in the NL East and dreams of their 5th consecutive NL East crown are fading quickly. They’ll get a quick two game interleague series against the reeling Red Sox to try and right the ship. They are still a comfortable 5 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card.
Rangers (48-60) at Astros (70-40)
Tue 8:10, Wed 8:10, Thu 2:10
In-state rivals go head-to-head in a 3-game series this week as the Astros attempt to pass the New York Yankees for the American League’s top seed. The AL favorite for Cy Young, Justin Verlander, pitches on Wednesday night against Glen Otto.
Cardinals (60-48) at Rockies (48-63)
Tue 8:40, Wed 8:40, Thu 3:10
The Cardinals are coming off an impressive sweep of the Yankees and have won 7 in a row. They’ve surged into first place in the NL Central and currently lead the Brewers by 2 games. Nolen Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are putting together MVP cases, and they’re about to get starter Jack Flaherty back from the IL.
Twins (57-51) at Dodgers (75-33)
Tue 10:10, Wed 10:10 (MLB Network)
Say what you will about the Phillies and Cardinals, but the hottest team in baseball is the best team in baseball and that’s the Los Angeles Dodgers, who swept the Giants in San Fran and then swept the Padres in LA last week to get to 75-33. They’ll now host another playoff hopeful in the AL Central leading Minnesota Twins for a short 2 game series on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Twins are coming off a split with the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend and have seen their AL Central lead trimmed to just 1 game over the Guardians and 2 games over the Chicago White Sox. A mid-week sweep at the hands of the Dodgers could see them in second place come Thursday morning.