The AL Central and both Wild Card races are getting tighter. It’s August 19th, and 18 of 30 teams are still in the playoff races. A massive series in the AL Central between the White Sox and the Guardians headlines our weekend, with the Twins hoping to beat up on the Rangers and overtake the Guardians for the division lead. The ice cold Yankees host the recently struggling Blue Jays while the AL’s best team, the Houston Astros, head to the A to take on the Braves. The Nats are on the West Coast visiting Juan Soto, but if you’re looking for other matchups to watch this week, I’ve got you covered below.
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. Houston Astros 77-43 (AL West Leaders)
2. New York Yankees 73-46 (AL East Leaders)
3. Cleveland Guardians 63-55 (AL Central Leaders)
4. Seattle Mariners 65-54 (Wildcard #1)
5. Toronto Blue Jays 63-54 (Wildcard #2/3)
6. Tampa Bay Rays 63-54 (Wildcard #2/3)
Minnesota Twins 61-55 (1.5 GB in AL Central, 1.5 GB in Wildcard)
Baltimore Orioles 61-57 (2.5 GB in Wildcard)
Chicago White Sox 61-58 (2.5 GB in AL Central, 3 GB in Wildcard)
Boston Red Sox 59-60 (5 GB in Wild Card)
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 81-36 (NL West Leaders)
2. New York Mets 76-43 (NL East Leaders)
3. St. Louis Cardinals 66-51 (NL Central Leaders)
4. Atlanta Braves 73-47 (Wildcard #1)
5. Philadelphia Phillies 65-52 (Wildcard #2)
6. San Diego Padres 66-55 (Wildcard #3)
Milwaukee Brewers 63-54 (3 GB back in NL Central, 1 GB in Wildcard)
San Francisco Giants 59-59 (5.5 GB in Wildcard)
Four Series to Watch
1. Blue Jays (63-54, 3rd AL East) at Yankees (73-46, 1st AL East)
Thursday, 7:05: Blue Jays W, 9-2
Friday, 7:05 (AppleTV+): Kevin Gausman (8-9, 3.16 ERA) vs Jameson Taillon (11-3, 3.95 ERA)
Saturday, 1:05: Mitch White (1-3, 3.72 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole (9-5, 3.30 ERA)
Sunday, 1:35: TBD vs Nestor Cortes (9-4, 2.74 ERA)
The New York Yankees have lost yet another series over the weekend and are now 9-18 since the All Star Break. The Blue Jays were also ice cold after dropping three straight series to the Orioles, the Guardians, and the Orioles again. While the Yankees are a lock for the playoffs despite their cold streak, the Blue Jays are now tied in the Wild Card standings with the Tampa Bay Rays and only 1.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins. A series against the struggling Yankees could be just what the doctor orders for the Jays.
The first game of this series occurred on Thursday night with the Blue Jays hammering the Yankees by a score of 9-2. The Blue Jays were able to do that with a struggling Jose Berrios on the mound as new Yankee Frankie Montas continued to disappoint in pinstripes. In terms of pitching, the Yankees should have an advantage on Saturday and Sunday when they have ace Gerrit Cole and All Star Nestor Cortes on the mound. Keep in mind, however, that Cortes is now well passed his previous professional career high of 112 innings.
The Friday game will be on AppleTV+ starting at 7:00. The other two games can be seen on MLBtv.
2. White Sox (61-58, 3rd AL Central) at Guardians (63-55, 1st AL Central)
Friday, 7:10: Lance Lynn (3-5, 5.62 ERA) vs Tristan McKenzie (8-9, 3.14 ERA)
Saturday, 6:10: Johnny Cueto (5-5, 2.78 ERA) vs Shane Bieber (8-6, 3.18 ERA)
Sunday, 12:05 (Peacock): Dylan Cease (12-5, 2.09 ERA) vs Aaron Civale (2-5, 5.63 ERA)
It’s a massive series within the AL Central, which is widely regarded as the weakest division in baseball. The Guardians are coming off a series split with the Tigers, while the White Sox managed to split with the AL’s best in the Houston Astros. The White Sox are currently 2.5 games behind the Guardians in the AL Central, but they’d also need to leapfrog the Minnesota Twins to take the division lead.
Saturday’s pitching matchup between the resurgent Johnny Cueto and the 2020 Cy Young Winner Shane Bieber should be worth the watch, while AL Cy Young hopeful Dylan Cease will face the disappointing Aaron Civale on Sunday in the early game available on Peacock.
None of the games will be on national broadcasts, but are available on MASN or to stream through MLBtv if you live outside the blackout area.
3. Mets (76-43, 1st NL East) at Phillies (65-52, 3rd NL East)
Friday, 7:05: Chris Bassitt (10-7, 3.27 ERA) vs Aaron Nola (8-9, 3.07 ERA)
Saturday, 1:05: TBD vs TBD
Saturday, 7:15: TBD vs TBD
Sunday, 1:35: TBD vs Kyle Gibson (8-5, 4.30 ERA)
The New York Mets have finally stumbled a bit as they dropped three of four in Atlanta and seen their division lead trimmed to just 3.5 games. The Phillies, meanwhile, took two of three from the Reds and maintain their position as the #2 Wild Card team in the National League.
Max Scherzer pitched Wednesday and Jacob deGrom pitched Thursday so it’s unlikely we’ll see either pitcher in this series, which is a big boost for the Phillies who had to face both last weekend. Carlos Carrasco is out for at least 6 weeks and Taijuan Walker may miss his next start, which is why there is so much ‘TBD’ for the Mets. One of those spots will be taken by lefty David Peterson while Tylor Megill could potentially start in one of the other spots. It will be interesting to see if the Mets keep top prospect Brett Baty up for this series or option him back down for pitching.
None of the games will be on national broadcasts for some reason, but are available to stream through MLBtv.
4. Astros (77-43, 1st AL West) at Braves (73-47, 2nd NL East)
Friday, 7:20: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 0.00) vs Kyle Wright (14-5, 3.14 ERA)
Saturday, 7:15 (FOX): Cristian Javier (7-8, 2.96 ERA) vs Spencer Strider (7-4, 3.04 ERA)
Sunday, 1:35: Jose Urquidy (11-4, 3.69 ERA) vs Charlie Morton (6-5, 4.04 ERA)
The Astros are coming off a series split against the White Sox in which three of the four games had an intense, postseason feel. They easily remain the American League’s best team, while Justin Verlander outdueling Dylan Cease on Tuesday night might have cemented his place atop the AL Cy Young race. The Braves won a monster series over the NL East leading New York Mets and have trimmed that division lead to just 3.5 games.
The Astros have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball and they now have Lance McCullers back on the mound. He’ll start on Friday night against youngster Kyle Wright, who is having a great season. Saturday’s national TV broadcast features an underrated pitching matchup that should be a lot of fun– Cristian Javier vs Spencer Strider. The Braves will be psyched to avoid Verlander and Framber Valdez. It’ll be interesting to see if Marcell Ozuna plays for the Braves, as he was arrested early Friday morning for a DUI.
The Saturday night showdown between the Astros and Braves will be on Fox. Both of the other games will be available on MLBtv.
The Rest of the Games
Nationals (40-80) at Padres (66-55)
Thu (Nats W), Fri 9:40, Sat 8:40, Sun 4:10
The Nationals and Padres meet again after playing each other in DC last week. The Nats stunned the Padres on Thursday night, winning 3-1 after scoring 9th inning runs off Yu Darvish and Josh Hader. The Padres are now just 1 game ahead of the Brewers for the NL’s final Wild Card spot.
Royals (48-72) at Rays (63-54)
Thu (Rays W), Fri 7:10, Sat 4:10, Sun 1:40
The Rays took care of business on Thursday night in a 7-1 victory to open the series against the Royals. They’re currently tied with the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card standings and are just 1.5 games up on the Minnesota Twins.
Brewers (63-54) at Cubs (50-67)
Fri 2:20, Sat 2:20 (FS1), Sun 2:20
The Cubs have won three of four after visiting DC and Baltimore respectively, while the Brewers scrapped and fought for a series split at home over the MLB leading Los Angeles Dodgers. All three afternoon games give the Brewers a chance to chase the division and Wild Card, but the Cubs are playing decently lately. The Saturday game will be available nationally on FS1.
Red Sox (59-60) at Orioles (61-57)
Fri 7:05, Sat 4:05, Sun 7:10 (ESPN)
Over their last 10 games, the Orioles are 4-1 against the Blue Jays and 1-4 against everyone else, which includes single losses to the Red Sox and Cubs, respectively. The Red Sox won a series at Fenway over the lowly Pirates, but were unable to secure the sweep on Thursday night. The finale of this series will be the national broadcast on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
Reds (46-70) at Pirates (46-72)
Fri 7:05, Sat 7:05, Sun 1:35
Who cares about this series?
Angels (51-67) at Tigers (45-75)
Fri 7:10, Sat 1:10, Sun 1:40
The only reason to tune into this series is to see Shohei Ohtani, who pitches on Sunday.
Rangers (53-65) at Twins (61-55)
Fri 8:10 (AppleTV+), Sat 7:10, Sun 2:10
The Rangers have fired their manager and GM after a disappointing season following major offseason additions. The Twins are 1 game back of the Guardians and 1.5 games back of the Rays and Blue Jays for the AL Wild Card. This series is one to keep on eye along with that Guardians/White Sox series as the Twins could be the big winners in the AL Central this weekend.
Giants (59-59) at Rockies (51-69)
Fri 8:40, Sat 8:10, Sun 3:10
The Giants are quietly hanging around the NL Wild Card race but they just feel like a .500 team. However, a sweep of the Rockies could go a long way in helping their postseason dreams.
Mariners (65-54) at Athletics (43-76)
Fri 9:40, Sat 7:15, Sun 4:07
The Mariners should be expecting to sweep the AL’s worst team in the Oakland Athletics. They’re coming off a big sweep of the Angels following a disappointing series loss last weekend to the Rangers, and are currently the top team in the AL Wild Card standings by a game over the Rays and Jays.
Cardinals (66-51) at Diamondbacks (55-63)
Fri 9:40, Sat 8:10, Sun 4:10
The Cardinals swept the Rockies and have built their NL Central lead to 3 games over the Milwaukee Brewers. The pitching is starting to get going and the offense is paced by MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. They’ll look to keep the train moving in Arizona.
Marlins (52-66) at Dodgers (81-36)
Fri 10:10, Sat 9:10, Sun 4:10
The Marlins won a surprising series at home over the Padres but now they need to head to LA to take on the big boys in the Dodgers. The Marlins pitching is fantastic and we’ll see NL Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcantara pitch on Sunday, but the Marlins offense is atrocious. The Dodgers will be looking to rebound after splitting a series with the Brewers during the week.