With less than two months remaining in baseball’s regular season, the various MLB playoff races are getting more and more interesting as each series passes. This week in particular sets up as an important one in the American League Wild Card standings.
The Toronto Blue Jays currently hold the top wild-card spot in the AL, sitting a half game ahead of the Seattle Mariners despite having one fewer win.
Toronto hasn’t won back-to-back games in more than two weeks and lost their weekend series with Cleveland, getting outscored 16-4 overall and dropping two of three games. The team is expected to get George Springer back in the lineup following his recent stint on the IL, which could help the team regain its form.
“Obviously, we're not playing our best baseball right now, but we've got the Orioles coming into a new series,” Blue Jays pitcher Kevin Gausman said after Sunday’s loss. “We've got to be able to just turn the page and realize that you can't dwell too much on it, especially this time of year. We've put ourselves in a good spot now. We've just got to kind of keep our head down and really just kind of focus on ourselves and not really focus too much on what's going on around the league.”
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at AL’s wild-card race and what to keep an eye on this week.
IF THE POST-SEASON BEGAN TODAY…
No. 1 Houston Astros (bye)
No. 2 New York Yankees (bye)
No. 3 Cleveland Guardians vs. No. 6 Tampa Bay Rays
No. 4 Toronto Blue Jays vs. No. 5 Seattle Mariners
Keep in mind MLB introduced a new, 12-team format for the 2022 post-season. Six AL teams and six NL teams will qualify for a straightforward bracket-style playoff. The top two seeds get a bye through the opening round. The No. 1 seed will then face the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup and the No. 2 seed meets the winner of No. 3 vs. No. 6 in the second round.
WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE…
The Orioles, Twins and White Sox are all within 2.0 games of the Rays for the final AL wild-card spot. Baltimore is 8-4, Minnesota is 5-7 and Chicago is 8-6 so far in August.
Chicago is coming off a weekend sweep of the Tigers and hoping to carry that momentum into a four-game home series with Houston that begins Monday. Minnesota is about to enter a seven-game home stretch against the Royals and Rangers who have a combined 99-131 record this season. Meanwhile, Baltimore prepares for a three-game road series in Toronto against a Blue Jays team they beat on back-to-back nights just one week ago.
Toronto’s FanGraphs odds: 91.5% | Toronto’s Baseball-Reference odds: 75.7%
Cleveland’s FanGraphs odds: 62.5% | Cleveland’s Baseball-Reference odds: 65.2%
Seattle's FanGraphs odds: 85.5% | Seattle's Baseball-Reference odds: 85.2%
Tampa Bay’s FanGraphs odds: 52.6% | Tampa Bay’s Baseball-Reference odds: 47.1%
Baltimore’s FanGraphs odds: 3.6% | Baltimore’s Baseball-Reference odds: 41.7%
Minnesota’s FanGraphs odds: 40.5% | Minnesota’s Baseball-Reference odds: 37.3%
Chicago’s FanGraphs odds: 46.0% | Chicago’s Baseball-Reference odds: 40.1%
Boston’s FanGraphs odds: 17.6% | Boston’s Baseball-Reference odds: 7.2%
NOTABLE GAMES/SERIES THIS WEEK...
BAL @ TOR: As mentioned above, the Blue Jays and Orioles begin a three-gamer in Toronto Monday night with Kyle Bradish and the struggling Yusei Kikuchi expected to get the starts. Each game in this series can be viewed on Sportsnet. The Blue Jays have not fared well against teams above .500 this season. After this series, Toronto begins a four-game road series with the Yankees and Baltimore will finish their week at home against the Red Sox.
TB @ NYY: The Rays have struggled against the Yankees this season, going 3-7 in their 10 meetings. Tampa Bay is 25-31 on the road this season and were swept in their most recent road series against New York. The first two games of this series can be seen on Sportsnet ONE with Wednesday’s series finale set to air on Sportsnet.
SEA @ LAA: The Mariners are 31-26 against fellow AL West teams in 2022 but just 5-7 when facing the Angels. Shohei Ohtani is on the mound for L.A. Monday in a game fans can watch on SN NOW.