Postseason Watch: Bracket, tiebreakers and more

Postseason Watch: Bracket, tiebreakers and more

5:46 AM UTC

Tuesday’s MLB action included a pair of contests between division rivals in playoff contention — and both games featured huge offensive performances from the visitors.

The Astros reclaimed sole possession of first place in the AL West with a Mariners loss and a 14-1 rout of the Rangers in which Jose Altuve homered in each of the first three innings.

In the National League, the Reds kept pace with the pack on the strength of a thrilling walk-off win against Seattle, the Cubs fended off the Giants courtesy of Christopher Morel’s pinch-hit three-run homer, and the Marlins powered themselves to a fifth straight win

While a lot can happen in the standings between now and when the postseason starts on Oct. 3, here is what the playoff picture looks like heading into Tuesday’s games.

Reminder: As part of the collective bargaining agreement made with the Players Association before the 2022 season, Major League Baseball expanded the postseason field from 10 to 12 teams. Both the AL and NL now have three Wild Card berths (up from two prior to 2022), with the top two seeds in each league receiving first-round byes. The other teams will pair up for the best-of-three Wild Card Series, in which all three games will be played at the home of the higher seed, with winners advancing to the Division Series.


AL Wild Card Series (starts Oct. 3)
Best-of-three format (all games at higher seed)
Blue Jays (6) at Twins (3)
Mariners (5) at Rays (4)

Orioles (1) and Astros (2) have byes

NL Wild Card Series (Oct. 3)
Best-of-three format (all games at higher seed)
Reds (6) at Brewers (3)
Cubs (5) at Phillies (4)

Braves (1) and Dodgers (2) have byes

AL Division Series (starts Oct. 7)
Best-of-five format
Rays/Mariners at Orioles
Twins/Blue Jays at Astros

NL Division Series (starts Oct. 7)
Best-of-five format
Phillies/Cubs at Braves
Brewers/Reds at Dodgers


Since 2022, all ties in the standings — for a division title or Wild Card spot, or to determine playoff seeding — have been determined solely by a series of mathematical tiebreakers, rather than on the field. A full breakdown of the current methodology can be seen here, but to summarize, the top three elements are, in order: head-to-head record, intradivision record (i.e. within the same division) and then record against opponents in the same league but a different division.

Here is a look at three examples of how tiebreakers could come into play:

  • In the AL West race, the Mariners have already clinched a tiebreaker over the Astros by winning eight of the teams’ first 10 matchups, with three to go.
  • The Blue Jays (1-2 vs. Texas) would need to win at least three of four over the Rangers from Sept. 11-14 in Toronto to claim the tiebreaker in case they finish deadlocked for the last AL Wild Card spot.
  • The Giants have locked up tiebreakers with the Brewers, Reds and Phillies, which could come into play for either the final NL Wild Card spot or seeding. San Francisco also needs to win one of two from Arizona (Sept. 19-20) to clinch the advantage over the D-backs.


Who is next: The Braves (90-47) have a magic number of four to clinch a postseason berth and a magic number of 12 to clinch the NL East. The Dodgers (84-53) have a magic number of 11 to clinch the NL West title.

3 key games from yesterday

AL East: Orioles lead Rays by 3 1/2 games

AL West: Astros lead Mariners by 1 game, Rangers by 2 games

NL Central: Brewers lead Cubs by 2 1/2 games

AL Wild Card: Blue Jays lead Rangers by 1/2 game for 3rd berth

NL Wild Card: Reds lead Marlins by 1/2 game for 3rd berth

Heading up: The Marlins extended their winning streak to five games with a victory over the Dodgers on Tuesday, coming on the heels of a four-game sweep of the Nationals over the weekend. They remain within a half-game of the third NL Wild Card spot.

Heading down: The Rangers slid out of a playoff spot with a blowout loss Tuesday against the Astros. Texas will wrap up its season series against Houston on Wednesday.

Clinched postseason berth: None

Almost there (90% postseason odds or better): Braves, Dodgers, Orioles, Rays, Phillies, Brewers, Twins, Astros

In good shape (50-89% postseason odds): Cubs, Mariners, Rangers, Blue Jays

In the mix (10-49% postseason odds): D-backs, Giants, Marlins, Reds

Still alive (Postseason odds above 0%): Red Sox, Guardians, Padres, Yankees, Mets, Tigers

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