It is finally here folks! Playoff baseball is upon us. Yesterday marked the final day of the 2023 season for 18 of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball. The other 12 now move on to compete in the greatest month of the MLB calendar. October!
Heading into the season’s final day, the playoff field was already set, with the Marlins and Diamondbacks grabbing the last two Wild Card spots, and the Seattle Mariners being eliminated from an American League playoff race that included seven great teams, with only room for six.
Still to be determined on Sunday was the seeding in both leagues, and in particular, who was going to win the American League West. With a victory in their final game, the Texas Rangers were set to win the AL West for the first time since 2016.
Meanwhile, the Houston Astros have won the AL West in every full season since 2016 (2020 excluded), and were in position to do so again if they could pull even with the Rangers in the standings.
Houston owned the tiebreaker over the Rangers due to winning nine of their 13 games in their season series and would clinch the AL West with a win and a Rangers loss on Sunday.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, that is exactly what happened. George Kirby and the Mariners bullpen combined to shutout Texas to get some payback for eliminating them from contention a day prior. The Astros beat a Diamondbacks team that really had nothing much to play for and went on to clinch the AL West yet again.
Now we look ahead to the AL Wild Card round, where the Astros get to enjoy a bye and the Rangers are forced into a do-or-die three-game set against a very formidable opponent.
The MLB Playoff Bracket is Set
The Texas Rangers went from a first-round bye, to playing the 99-win Tampa Bay Rays on the road in a three-game series. That right there is a tough pill to swallow.
Furthermore if the Rangers are able to advance past the Rays, all that is waiting for them is a matchup against the best team in the American League, the 101-win Baltimore Orioles.
On the other side of the American League bracket, the Astros now get to sit back and play the winner of the Wild Card series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins.
Now, remember when I said the Diamondbacks had nothing to play for on the final day of the season? Technically that was not the case, as they were in a battle with the Miami Marlins for playoff seeding. But it might have been a battle where the loser was the real winner.
If the Diamondbacks had won on Sunday, paired with a Marlins loss, they would have been the five-seed in the NL playoff race. Looking at the bracket though, they ended up being on the right side of things.
By “winning” the five-seed, the Marlins now have to face off against their division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies, who are the defending NL champs after going from Wild Card to World Series last year. The Phillies look just as good this year, if not better, making them a way more formidable playoff opponent on paper than the Milwaukee Brewers.
With that said, the Brewers actually won two more games than the Phillies and might have the better pitching staff to go up against. When you look past the Wild Card round, the Braves are the clear favorites and that is who will be waiting for the Marlins if they can upset the Phillies.
Stay tuned as we will be releasing full previews for each of the four Wild Card series’
Key Dates and Times for the Wild Card Round
For those who are unaware of how the new playoff format from last season works, each league has two teams who get a bye and four teams who square off in the Wild Card round.
The two division winners in each league that have the best record get to advance straight to the Divisional Series round, while the other division winner squares off if the Wild Card round, along with the three Wild Card teams.
These Wild Card Series are a best-of-three, where one teams hosts all three games. This year, all four Wild Card series will begin this Tuesday and will be wrapped up by Thursday.
Here is the full schedule, with the times and TV stations where you can watch the games:
Tuesday, Oct. 3
Game 1: No. 4 Rays vs. No. 5 Rangers, 3:08 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 1: No. 3 Twins vs. No. 6 Blue Jays, 4:38 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 1: No. 3 Brewers vs. No. 6 Diamondbacks, 7:08 p.m., ESPN2
Game 1: No. 4 Phillies vs. No. 5 Marlins, 8:08 p.m., ESPN
Wednesday, Oct. 4
Game 2: No. 4 Rays vs. No. 5 Rangers, 3:08 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2: No. 3 Twins vs. No. 6 Blue Jays, 4:38 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 2: No. 3 Brewers vs. No. 6 Diamondbacks, 7:08 p.m., ESPN2
Game 2: No. 4 Phillies vs. No. 5 Marlins, 8:08 p.m., ESPN
Thursday, Oct. 5
Game 3*: No. 4 Rays vs. No. 5 Rangers, 3:08 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 3*: No. 3 Twins vs. No. 6 Blue Jays, 4:38 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 3*: No. 3 Brewers vs. No. 6 Diamondbacks, 7:08 p.m., ESPN2
Game 3*: No. 4 Phillies vs. No. 5 Marlins, 8:08 p.m., ESPN