We are entering the final weekend of the 2020 MLB regular season, which will be remembered forever because of its unusual length and rule changes. It’s an expanded 16-team playoff field this year and could stay that way going forward. More than half of the playoff spots have been clinched. Here’s a quick overview of what to watch for with the season ending Sunday. The Wild-Card Round opens Monday already.
Final 4 NL Spots Up For Grabs
The Los Angeles Dodgers probably are a good team to fade in their games this weekend because they have squat to play for. L.A. has clinched an amazing eighth straight NL West title and the top seed throughout the NL playoffs – although, remember, all series by the Wild-Card Round will be played at a neutral-site bubble.
The Dodgers will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed. They are the third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991 to 2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998 to 2006).
L.A. is the +350 favorite to win its first World Series since 1988. They rank second in the majors in runs per game, second in the majors in starters’ ERA, second in the majors in bullpen ERA and second in the majors in turning batted balls into outs. Their run differential is 42% higher than that of the second-place San Diego Padres and on pace to be the fourth best since 1900 on a per-game basis.
The second and third seeds in the NL have yet to be decided. One will go to the NL East champion Atlanta Braves and the other to the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs. The only other team to have clinched an NL playoff spot as of now is the San Diego Padres. They will finish second in the NL West behind the Dodgers and thus be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and face the No. 5 in the Wild-Card Round. It’s the first time in 14 years the Padres are in the playoffs.
The final four playoff spots will be a battle between the Cardinyankals, Marlins, Giants, Reds, Brewers and Phillies and could come down to the final day. The Cardinals and Brewers face off this weekend in arguably the biggest series in the majors.
AL Playoff Field Set
In the American League, seven of the eight spots have been clinched as of this writing, and in reality all eight have been. The Tampa Bay Rays have won the AL East. It’s the sixth postseason appearance in franchise history and their second in a row, as well as their first AL East title since 2010. Last year, Tampa Bay beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game and lost to Houston in the division series.
The Rays probably will be the AL’s top seed and face the No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays in the Wild-Card Round. The Jays hadn’t clinched a spot as of this writing but it’s fait accompli and may have happened by the time you read this.
The Oakland A’s are the AL West champions and will be either the No. 2 or 3 seed, with the AL Central champion in that mix. It’s the first AL West title for the A’s since 2013 and sixth postseason appearance in the last nine years. Oakland has lost in the Wild-Card Game in back-to-back years.
The AL Central is going to come down to the Twins or White Sox and possibly (but not likely) the Indians (who also have clinched a playoff spot). Just a few days ago, the White Sox had a three-game lead and looked like a sure bet to win the division but they have slumped since and been passed by the Twins. It’s Chicago’s first playoff berth since 2008 and only the 10th postseason appearance in the history of the franchise, which dates to 1903.
The Twins have clinched their third postseason appearance in the past four seasons. Last year, they were swept by the Yankees in the division series and have amazingly lost 16 straight playoff games, an MLB record, since their most recent win, in Game 1 of the 2004 AL Division Series.
The other AL playoff teams are the New York Yankees and Houston Astros by virtue of finishing second in the AL East and AL West, respectively. The Astros have largely disappointed, though. It’s the first time in club history that Houston has made the playoffs four years in a row. The Yankees are the +600 second-favorites to the Dodgers to win the World Series and are starting to hit their stride.
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