It’s time for another action-packed weekend of Major League Baseball! The Nationals host the NL East leading Mets while I’ve highlighted three other massive series with playoff implications to monitor this week. Small baseball markets such as Seattle, Cleveland, Tampa, and San Diego are all featured as they chase playoff spots. What games are you going 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. Houston Astros 84-47 (AL West Leaders)
2. New York Yankees 79-52 (AL East Leaders)
3. Cleveland Guardians 68-61 (AL Central Leaders)
4. Tampa Bay Rays 72-57 (Wildcard #1)
5. Seattle Mariners 73-58 (Wildcard #2)
6. Toronto Blue Jays 70-59 (Wildcard #3)
Baltimore Orioles 69-61 (1.5 GB in Wildcard)
Minnesota Twins 67-62 (1 GB in AL Central, 3 GB in Wildcard)
Chicago White Sox 65-66 (4 GB in AL Central, 6 GB in Wildcard)
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 90-40 (NL West Leaders)
2. New York Mets 84-48 (NL East Leaders)
3. St. Louis Cardinals 76-55 (NL Central Leaders)
4. Atlanta Braves 81-51 (Wildcard #1, 3 GB back in NL East)
5. Philadelphia Phillies 73-58 (Wildcard #2)
6. San Diego Padres 73-59 (Wildcard #3)
Milwaukee Brewers 69-61 (6.5 GB back in NL Central, 3 GB in Wildcard)
Three Series to Watch
1. Mariners (73-58, 2nd AL West) at Guardians (68-61, 1st AL Central)
Friday, 7:10: Luis Castillo (5-5, 2.85 ERA) vs Zach Plesac (3-11, 4.39 ERA)
Saturday, 7:15: Robbie Ray (11-8, 3.58 ERA) vs Aaron Civale (2-6, 5.40 ERA)
Sunday, 2:40: George Kirby (6-3, 3.16 ERA) vs Cal Quantrill (11-5, 3.50 ERA)
Following a series win where they took 3 of 4 from Cleveland in Seattle last weekend, the Mariners headed to Detroit and swept the Tigers to extend their Wild Card lead to 3.5 games over the Baltimore Orioles. They are currently tied with the Rays for the first two AL Wild Card Spots. The Guardians continued their recent struggles with a home series loss to the Baltimore Orioles and have seen their AL Central lead once again trimmed to just a single game over the Minnesota Twins.
Expect a low scoring series once again as two great pitching staffs go head-to-head. But I’ve got to give the Mariners the edge as they’ve got Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, and rookie George Kirby going in this series while the Guardians will miss their two best starters’ spots in the rotation as Tristan McKenzie and 2020 AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber pitched Wednesday and Thursday nights, respectively.
The Mariners found ways to tread water in early August with Julio Rodriguez, Mitch Haniger, Ty France, and others in and out of the team with injuries, but all of those guys are back and hitting the ball. J-Rod and Ty France went back-to-back in their win on Thursday over the Tigers while the Guardians will depend on Jose Ramirez and the surprising star that is Andres Gimenez. Rookie of the Year candidate Steven Kwan sets the table for the Guardians offense, but he should finish a distant third in that award race as Julio Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman are generational talents.
For some reason, none of these game look like they will be national broadcasts so you’ll have to settle for MLBtv if you want to watch.
2. Yankees (79-52, 1st AL East) at Rays (72-57, 2nd AL East)
Friday, 7:10 (MLB Network): Domingo German (2-2, 3.19 ERA) vs Jeffrey Springs (6-4, 2.76 ERA)
Saturday, 6:10: Clarke Schmidt (5-3, 2.89 ERA) vs TBD
Sunday, 1:40 (MLB Network): Frankie Montas (4-11, 3.94 ERA) vs TBD
On August 1st, the Yankees were the first team to reach 70 wins. On the morning of September 2nd, they have yet to reach 80. They led the Rays by 14 games on August 1st, and now that lead has been trimmed to just 6 games. Tampa is currently tied with the Mariners for the top two AL Wild Card spots, 2 games ahead of the Blue Jays in the third spot, and 3.5 games ahead of the Orioles. Aside from a 2-game sweep of the Mets last week, the Yankees haven’t won a series since they took 3 of 4 from the Royals at the end of July. They are 15-24 since the All Star Break and look poised for another disappointing playoff exit.
There will be no Gerrit Cole or Nestor Cortes in this series for the Yankees and Jameson Taillon is injured. Youngster Clarke Schmidt gets the start on Saturday, and he’s been good in limited opportunities this season. Frankie Montas, acquired at the trade deadline after they failed to get Luis Castillo, is 0-2 with a 7.01 ERA in 5 starts for the Bronx Bombers.
On the other side, AL Cy Young contender Shane McClanahan would probably have been slated to pitch for the Rays on Sunday afternoon, but the 2022 AL All Star is headed back to the IL with an injury. Corey Kluber will likely pitch on Saturday, while Sunday’s pitcher remains TBD. The Yankees are still feast or famine with the home run as Aaron Judge continues his chase for the Yankees home run record and the AL MVP award. The Yankees also called up top Shortstop prospect Oswald Peraza, who should feature for the Yankees this weekend.
Friday and Sunday’s games will be on MLB Network if you’re outside the YES Network’s market area, and should be a fun series to keep an eye on.
3. Padres (73-59, 2nd NL West) at Dodgers (90-40, 1st NL West)
Friday, 10:10: Yu Darvish (11-7, 3.41 ERA) vs Dustin May (1-1, 1.64 ERA)
Saturday, 9:10 (MLB Network): Sean Manaea (7-7, 4.90 ERA) vs Julio Urias (14-7, 2.32 ERA)
Sunday, 7:08 (ESPN): Mike Clevinger (5-5, 3.59 ERA) vs Andrew Heaney (2-1, 2.12 ERA)
The Dodgers actually lost a series this past week as they lost two of three in Queens to the NL East leading Mets. The Padres have won five of six since being swept in a 2-game series by the Cleveland Guardians. The Dodgers are going to be the NL’s #1 seed and they lead the Padres by a ridiculous 18 games. The Padres haven’t really gone off since their major trade acquisitions, but they’re still 3 games clear of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card.
This should be the best current rivalry in baseball in that moment and it still may be. But the Dodgers are 17-2 over the Padres in the last 19 games between the two teams so it’s hard to claim that in such a one-sided matchup. Either way, it should make for an electric matchup at Dodger Stadium between these two good lineups.
The Dodgers got Clayton Kershaw back on Thursday, which allowed them to move Dustin May back to start on Friday night against Yu Darvish. It’s Dustin May’s third start since returning from serious injury and it’s still unclear whether he’ll be starting or relieving come playoff time. Friday is probably the Padres best chance at a win, with Yu Darvish pitching for them while Sean Manaea and Mike Clevinger will have their hands full with the lethal Dodgers lineup.
All three games of this series should be on national broadcasts but only Saturday and Sunday’s matchups are.
The Rest of the Games
Nationals (45-86) at Mets (84-48)
Fri 7:10, Sat 7:10, Sun 1:40
The Nationals won a series over fellow MLB worst team the Oakland A’s this past week, but now it’s back to reality. They face the NL East leading Mets, who took two of three from the Dodgers during the week and their division lead over the Braves is still just 3 games. The Nats get to face former ace Max Scherzer on Saturday.
Rangers (58-72) at Red Sox (64-68)
Thu (Red Sox Win), Fri 7:10, Sat 4:10, Sun 1:35
The Red Sox are still technically in the Wild Card race, but they’re 7.5 games back and just not very good. I don’t think they ever reach .500 again.
Brewers (69-61) at Diamondbacks (62-68)
Thu (D-backs Win), Fri 9:40, Sat 8:10, Sun 4:10
The Diamondbacks have been pretty decent really and that showed on Thursday night as they took the first game of the series over the Brewers. Milwaukee is chasing a playoff spot but are now 3 games back in the NL Wild Card and 6.5 back of the Cardinals for the division.
Blue Jays (70-59) at Pirates (49-81)
Fri 6:35, Sat 6:35, Sun 12:05 (Peacock)
Despite underperforming, the Blue Jays are still hanging on to a playoff spot after winning a series over the Chicago Cubs during the week. But the surging Orioles are still just 1.5 games back so the Blue Jays have to be expecting to pummel the Pirates this weekend while the O’s are hosting the hapless A’s. Sunday’s finale will be the early national broadcast on Peacock.
Rockies (56-76) at Reds (51-78)
Fri 6:40, Sat 6:40, Sun 1:40
This series really has no impact outside these two teams so there’s not much to talk about.
Athletics (49-83) at Orioles (69-61)
Fri 7:05, Sat 7:05, Sun 1:35
After three straight series wins over teams in the playoff hunt, which including the American League leading Houston Astros in Houston, the Orioles get the woeful Athletics at Camden Yards before getting back into the grind against the Blue Jays next week. O’s pitching has been unbelievable and the three guys who have been dominant over the reason stretch– Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, and Austin Voth– pitch this weekend.
Royals (53-79) at Tigers (50-81)
Fri 7:10, Sat 6:10, Sun 1:40
Like the Rockies/Reds series, this series has no impact on the rest of the league so I’m not going to spend time talking about it.
Marlins (55-75) at Braves (81-51)
Fri 7:20 (AppleTV+), Sat 7:20, Sun 1:35
The Braves took two of three from the Rockies during the week, culminating in a Spencer Strider 16-K gem. They are a lock for the top NL Wild Card spot and remain within 3 games of the New York Mets for the NL East. They’ll face NL Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcantara on Friday night, countering with the veteran Charlie Morton. Braves ace Max Fried pitches on Sunday and he’s a potential NL Cy Young finalist as well.
Twins (67-62) at White Sox (65-66)
Fri 8:10, Sat 7:15 (FOX), Sun 2:10
While this may not be one of the three highlighted series above, make no mistake– this is a massive series in both the AL Wild Card and AL Central Division races. AL Cy Young candidate Dylan Cease will pitch in primetime for the White Sox on Saturday night on FOX. With time running out, the disappointing White Sox need a series win.
Cubs (56-75) at Cardinals (76-55)
Fri 8:15, Sat 7:15, Sun 2:15
One of the biggest rivalries in the league isn’t quite as exciting with a terrible Cubs team involved, but the St. Louis Cardinals are on a roll and fun to watch. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are competing for the NL MVP award and both are hot right now while future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols continues to chase 700. Jordan Montgomery, who has been electric since being acquired at the deadline, goes for the Cards on Friday night while underrated veteran Adam Wainwright goes for the Redbirds on Saturday.
Astros (84-47) at Angels (57-74)
Fri 9:38 (MLB Network), Sat 9:07, Sun 4:07 (MLB Network)
The Angels are terrible but Shoehei Ohtani is worth the price of admission. He’ll pitch against Luis Garcia on Saturday night as the Astros look to extend their lead atop the American League standings as they chase the #1 seed for the playoffs. AL Cy Young Justin Verlander will not start this weekend and is expected to miss a short time with a calf injury. Yordan Alvarez is day-to-day with a hand issue and has missed the last 3 games.
Phillies (73-58) at Giants (61-68)
Fri 10:15 (AppleTV+), Sat 4:05 (MLB Network), Sun 4:05
The Giants have fallen apart recently and are now almost completely out of the NL Wild Card and are actually half a game behind the Diamondbacks now in both the Wild Card and the NL West. Meanwhile, the Phillies are the reason for the Diamondbacks passing the Giants in the standings as they dropped two of three in Arizona to start their West Coast road trip. Bryce is back, but the Phillies are just 3.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Wild Card.