How the MLB Schedule Will Impact Every Playoff Hopeful Team Down the Stretch

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVAugust 28, 2022

How the MLB Schedule Will Impact Every Playoff Hopeful Team Down the Stretch

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    Los Angeles' Cody Bellinger and Milwaukee's Willy Adames (Michael Owens/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

    We learned this week that the 2023 MLB season will feature a new balanced schedule with every team facing each of the other 29 clubs, but what's left of the 2022 slate is decidedly unbalanced and will play a huge part in framing the upcoming postseason picture.

    There are 12 spots in the postseason bracket and 18 teams left with at least a 1 percent chance of securing one of those spots. per FanGraphs.

    For each of those 18 teams—presented in alphabetical order by location—we'll take a look at what's left on their schedules to try to get a sense of what that bracket will look like a little over five weeks from now when it is finalized.

    Are the Astros and Dodgers likely to hang on to their respective No. 1 seeds, or could a team from New York or Atlanta chase them down to claim home-field advantage?

    And what of the other end of the playoff spectrum? Are San Diego and Seattle in good shape to hold off the likes of Milwaukee and Baltimore, or are we destined for some photo finishes in the inaugural race for the No. 6 seeds?

Atlanta Braves

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    Max Fried (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    Record: 79-49

    Standings: 3.0 GB in NL East; NL's No. 4 seed

    Remaining Schedule: 1 at STL, 3 vs. COL, 3 vs. MIA, 2 at OAK, 3 at SEA, 3 at SFG, 3 vs. PHI, 3 vs. WAS, 4 at PHI, 3 at WAS, 3 vs. NYM, 3 at MIA

    With 17 games left against Miami, Washington, Colorado and Oakland, Atlanta is all but guaranteed to make the postseason.

    Even with a difficult schedule, it would have been next to impossible for Atlanta to blow it, boasting 14 more wins than the first runner-up in the NL wild-card race (Milwaukee).

    But with that much of a gap and an easy schedule? There's no doubt the reigning champs will be back in October to defend their crown. And that makes Atlanta the only wild-card team comfortably in the postseason field.

    It's just a question of whether it will be as the No. 4 seed or whether Atlanta can overtake New York to win the NL East and get the No. 2 seed—and the coveted first-round bye that comes with it.

    The schedule is easy, but New York's is even easier. It could end up being a case similar to last year's NL West race in which both teams eclipsed 100 wins en route to an entertaining finish.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Cedric Mullins II (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    Record: 67-59

    Standings: 10.5 GB in AL East; 1.5 GB for AL Wild Card

    Remaining Schedule: 1 at HOU, 3 at CLE, 3 vs. OAK, 4 vs. TOR, 3 vs. BOS, 2 at WAS, 3 at TOR, 3 vs. DET, 4 vs. HOU, 4 at BOS, 3 at NYY, 3 vs. TOR

    The good news is the Baltimore Orioles have eight games remaining against bottom-feeders. (Fifteen, actually, if you want to count the seven left against the last-place Red Sox.) If the O's take care of business against the A's, Nationals and Tigers—in series happening concurrently with the Rays facing the Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros, no less—they could make a serious push during the next 3.5 weeks.

    The bad news is they've let a bunch of winnable games slip away as of late, and by the time they finish this road trip against Houston and Cleveland, they might be too far gone to salvage a wild-card spot.

    Still, Baltimore is in a good position to finish the regular season with a winning record, which is a heck of a lot better than anyone was expecting as little as two months ago. And if the O's put in some serious work in their 10 remaining games against the Blue Jays, anything is possible.

Boston Red Sox

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    Rafael Devers (Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

    Record: 62-65

    Standings: 16.0 GB in AL East; 7.0 GB for AL Wild Card

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. TB, 3 at MIN, 4 vs. TEX, 3 at TBR, 3 at BAL, 2 vs. NYY, 3 vs. KCR, 2 at CIN, 4 at NYY, 4 vs. BAL, 3 at TOR, 3 vs. TBR

    The Boston Red Sox made things interesting there for a hot minute 10 days ago, getting back to .500 overall and within four games of the last wild-card spot.

    But they're probably toast after recently losing six out of seven.

    The nine games against Texas, Kansas City and Cincinnati within the next 3.5 weeks might keep the Red Sox hanging on to the fringe of the playoff picture for a while longer, but they desperately need to help themselves out against Minnesota, Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay to have any hope of leapfrogging enough teams to legitimately get back into the hunt.

Chicago White Sox

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    Jose Abreu (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Record: 63-64

    Standings: 5.0 GB in AL Central; 6.0 GB for AL Wild Card

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. ARI, 3 vs. KCR, 3 vs. MIN, 3 at SEA, 4 at OAK, 2 vs. COL, 1 at CLE, 3 at DET, 3 vs. CLE, 3 vs. DET, 3 at MIN, 3 at SDP, 3 vs. MIN

    The Chicago White Sox just keep hanging around and hanging around, perpetually 2.0-5.0 games back in the AL Central.

    But perhaps this is when they finally make their move.

    Sixteen of their next 26 games come against teams with no playoff pulse, while four of the other 10 (three of them at home) are against the first-place Guardians. One need not squint that hard to see Chicago going 18-8 against that slate and finally storming into the driver's seat.

    That final week of the regular season could be wild, though, with Chicago battling San Diego and Minnesota while Cleveland gets to host Kansas City for six games.

Cleveland Guardians

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    Cleveland's Jose Ramirez (Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

    Record: 67-58

    Standings: 3.0 games up in AL Central

    Remaining Schedule: 1 at SEA, 3 vs. BAL, 3 vs. SEA, 3 at KCR, 3 at MIN, 3 vs. LAA, 1 vs. CHW, 5 vs. MIN, 3 at CHW, 3 at TEX, 3 vs. TBR, 6 vs. KCR

    If the Cleveland Guardians don't win the AL Central, they will only have themselves to blame.

    They have eight games left against the Twins and four against the White Sox. But, more importantly, they have three at home against the Angels, three on the road against the Rangers and nine left against the Royals, including wrapping up the regular season with six in a row, all at home, against Kansas City.

    They could go 4-4 against Minnesota and 2-2 against Chicago yet still cruise to a division crown by going 12-3 or better against those other three teams with no postseason pulse.

    The Guardians could also be a significant factor in the AL wild-card race because of their home games remaining against Baltimore, Seattle and Tampa Bay. If they sweep one of those series and get swept in one of the others, that would be huge.

Houston Astros

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    Yordan Alvarez and Jose Altuve (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    Record: 81-47

    Standings: 11.5 games up in AL West

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. BAL, 2 at TEX, 3 at LAA, 3 vs. TEX, 3 vs. LAA, 3 at DET, 4 vs. OAK, 3 at TBR, 4 at BAL, 2 vs. ARI, 3 vs. TBR, 3 vs. PHI

    The Houston Astros are definitely going to win the AL West, and the schedule is set up beautifully for them to secure the AL's No. 1 seed without any drama down the stretch.

    Houston is already 2.5 games ahead of the Yankees, and it is about to begin an 18-game stretch against opponents who have effectively been eliminated from the postseason. The Astros are 32-14 with a plus-63 run differential against the Tigers, Angels, A's and Rangers this season, and one has to assume they're just going to improve those numbers in the next three weeks.

    So, don't fret about staying ahead of the Yankees and instead think about maybe catching the Dodgers?

    Some lot of good playing at home did for the Astros in either 2019 or 2021, as they went a combined 1-6 at home against Washington and Atlanta. But it could be critical if we end up with a repeat of the 2017 Fall Classic.

    The Astros are 7.5 games behind the Dodgers, so it's an uphill climb to say the least. But let's check back in on Sep. 18 and see how things look after Houston presumably runs rampant through a favorable stretch.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Freddie Freeman (Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Record: 87-38

    Standings: 18.5 games up in NL West

    Remaining Schedule: 2 at MIA, 3 at NYM, 3 vs. SDP, 3 vs. SFG, 3 at SDP, 3 at ARI, 3 at SFG, 5 vs. ARI, 3 vs. STL, 3 at SDP, 6 vs. COL

    It's just a question of whether the Los Angeles Dodgers can make a legitimate run at the single-season record of 116 wins.

    They've already effectively won the NL West, they're 6.5 games up on the Mets for the NL's No. 1 seed as well as 7.5 games ahead of the Astros for home-field advantage throughout the postseason. And considering they've gone 42-10 in their last 52 games, those leads feel insurmountable.

    To tie the record, they need to go 29-8 the rest of the way, which is doable.

    The upcoming three-game series in Queens could put an end to those dreams of 116 wins. Conversely, the Dodgers could sweep the Mets and leave all of us wondering what the heck is going to stop this team from reaching 120.

    Take note that 14 of their final 17 games are at home, 11 of which are against the Diamondbacks and Rockies. If they enter that closing stretch at 101-44 or better, game on.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Corbin Burnes (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Record: 66-59

    Standings: 6.0 GB in NL Central; 2.5 GB for NL Wild Card

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. CHC, 3 vs. PIT, 4 at ARI, 3 at COL, 2 vs. SFG, 3 vs. CIN, 2 at STL, 3 vs. NYY, 3 vs. NYM, 4 at CIN, 2 vs. STL, 4 vs. MIA, 3 vs. ARI

    Four weeks ago, the Milwaukee Brewers were 13 games above .500 with a 4.0-game lead in the NL Central.

    Since then, however, the Brewers have gone 9-15, plummeting from four games up to six games back, even though the schedule wasn't that daunting. Yes, they had seven games against the Dodgers, but they actually won three of those. It was getting swept in Pittsburgh and losing the series against the Reds and Cubs where Milwaukee shot itself in the foot.

    So, can the Brewers capitalize on getting 24 more games against the Reds (seven), Diamondbacks (seven), Marlins (four), Pirates (three) and Rockies (three), or are they just going to stub their toe a few more times to fade out of the playoff picture?

    The eight-game stretch from Sep. 13 to 21 is what figures to make or break Milwaukee's postseason dreams. That's the two games in St. Louis and the six home games against the New York teams.

    If they can at least break even with a 4-4 record during that stretch, there's a decent chance they could salvage this recent mess and still finish ahead of the Padres or Phillies for a wild-card spot.

Minnesota Twins

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    Byron Buxton (Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

    Record: 64-61

    Standings: 3.0 GB in AL Central; 4.0 GB for AL Wild Card

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. SFG, 3 vs. BOS, 3 at CHW, 4 at NYY, 3 vs. CLE, 3 vs. KCR, 5 at CLE, 3 at KCR, 3 vs. LAA, 3 vs. CHW, 3 at DET, 3 at CHW

    The Minnesota Twins had a good run for four-plus months, but a recent six-game losing skid coupled with these next four series against the Red Sox, White Sox, Yankees and Guardians might knock the Twins out of the conversation by mid-September.

    If they can flip a switch and cobble together even a 6-7 record in this upcoming stretch, though, maybe there's hope.

    Twelve of their final 23 games are against the Royals, Tigers and Angels, while the other 11 are against the two teams they're battling for this divisional crown.

    As long as they aren't eight-plus games back by Sept. 13, there's still a chance that the team that led the AL Central for most of the season comes back to win it.

New York Mets

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    Jacob deGrom (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Record: 82-46

    Standings: 3.0 games up in NL East

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. COL, 3 vs. LAD, 3 vs. WAS, 3 at PIT, 3 at MIA, 3 vs. CHC, 4 vs. PIT, 3 at MIL, 3 at OAK, 2 vs. MIA, 3 at ATL, 3 vs. WAS

    The New York Mets' remaining schedule is a joke, to the point where making up the 6.5-game gap behind the Dodgers for the NL's No. 1 seed is actually still possible.

    That starts with the head-to-head contests this week, though. The Mets probably need to win all three of those home games against the Dodgers to have any hope of completing the comeback.

    Should they pull off that sweep, though, they could go on quite the tear over the final month with 23 of their subsequent games coming against teams that rank bottom-10 in the majors in both winning percentage and run differential.

    Atlanta also has a favorable schedule, though, so even if the Mets catch fire, the NL East may well come down to the head-to-head series in Atlanta from Sep. 30 to Oct. 2.

New York Yankees

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    Aaron Judge (Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

    Record: 78-49

    Standings: 8.5 games up in AL East

    Remaining Schedule: 1 at OAK, 3 at LAA, 3 at TBR, 4 vs. MIN, 3 vs. TBR, 2 at BOS, 3 at MIL, 2 vs. PIT, 4 vs. BOS, 3 at TOR, 3 vs. BAL, 4 at TEX

    It's still way too early to think about locking anyone into a particular slot in the postseason bracket, but the New York Yankees as the No. 2 seed in the AL sure is the likeliest outcome.

    Despite their well-documented struggles from July 9 through August 20 (12-25 record), they still have an 8.5-game lead in the AL East. However, they have fallen 2.5 games behind the Astros for the No. 1 seed.

    It's not an insurmountable gap in either direction, but it's sizable. And while they have the least difficult remaining schedule in this division, they have a more challenging closing stretch than Houston has.

    That said, the six upcoming games against Tampa Bay loom quite large for both teams.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Kyle Schwarber (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

    Record: 72-55

    Standings: 9.5 GB in NL East; NL's No. 5 seed

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. PIT, 3 at ARI, 3 at SFG, 3 vs. MIA, 3 vs. WAS, 3 at MIA, 3 at ATL, 2 vs. TOR, 4 vs. ATL, 3 at CHC, 4 at WAS, 3 at HOU

    The Philadelphia Phillies should make the playoffs for what would be the first time since 2011, but they are going to do so as a wild-card team for the first time in franchise history. That 9.5-game NL East gap is far too much to overcome, especially with New York's cakewalk of a remaining schedule.

    Philadelphia is also 6.5 games behind Atlanta for the No. 4 seed, which is pretty important with the No. 4 seed hosting the No. 5 seed for the entirety of that best-of-three first-round series. Catching Atlanta is more feasible than catching New York—particularly considering the Phillies have seven games against the former and none left against the latter—but that gap is also almost insurmountable with fewer than 40 games to go.

    So, will they get the No. 5 or No. 6 seed?

    Or could they still miss the playoffs?

    Their schedule isn't too daunting on the whole, but if things are still up in the air with three games remaining, that season-ending series in Houston sure does loom large.

    While the Padres wrap things up at home against San Francisco and the Brewers close out the regular season with seven in a row at home against Miami and Arizona, the Phillies will finish a 10-game road trip against a team that might still be jostling for home-field advantage—both in the ALCS against the Yankees and in the World Series against the Dodgers/Mets.

San Diego Padres

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    Manny Machado and Juan Soto (Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

    Record: 70-58

    Standings: 18.5 GB in NL West; NL's No. 6 seed

    Remaining Schedule: 1 at KCR, 3 at SFG, 3 at LAD, 3 vs. ARI, 3 vs. LAD, 2 at SEA, 4 at ARI, 3 vs. STL, 3 at COL, 3 vs. LAD, 3 vs. CHW, 3 vs. SFG

    Are the San Diego Padres' bats ever going to wake up?

    Fernando Tatis Jr. isn't walking through that door, but they do still have Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Brandon Drury and Jake Cronenworth.

    It's inexcusable that they have been held to three runs or fewer in 14 of their last 21 games, and downright embarrassing that they scored eight runs in a recent four-game series against the Nationals.

    And let's just say the schedule isn't getting easier from there. San Diego still has nine games remaining against the Dodgers, six against the Giants and one series each against the Mariners, Cardinals and White Sox. With the exception of Tampa Bay's remaining gauntlet, it is the toughest schedule facing any playoff hopeful the rest of the way.

    As such, Milwaukee (2.5 games behind San Diego) and San Francisco (7.5 GB) aren't exactly dead yet.

San Francisco Giants

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    Carlos Rodon (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

    Record: 61-64

    Standings: 26.0 GB in NL West; 7.5 GB for NL wild card

    Remaining Schedule: 1 at MIN, 3 vs. SDP, 3 vs. PHI, 3 at LAD, 2 at MIL, 3 at CHC, 3 vs. ATL, 3 vs. LAD, 4 at COL, 3 at ARI, 3 vs. COL, 3 vs. ARI, 3 at SDP

    As with Boston in the AL, we're being mighty generous in even putting the San Francisco Giants on this list, as they have little to no hope of reaching the playoffs.

    Not only are the G-Men already 7.5 games behind the NL's final wild-card spot, but they also have one of the most difficult remaining schedules. Of their next 21 games, six come against the Dodgers while 11 are against the other four teams in the NL wild-card mix.

    The gauntlet will eventually relent in the form of 13 in a row against Arizona and Colorado in the latter half of September, but it'll probably be too little too late by that point.

    Of course, the silver lining on that brutal three-week stretch is that the Giants control their own destiny to some extent. Sweep the Padres this week and things get interesting in a hurry. Proceed to at least post a winning record in the subsequent five games against the Phillies and the Brewers and they'll really be cooking with gas.

Seattle Mariners

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    Julio Rodriguez (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

    Record: 69-58

    Standings: 11.5 GB in AL West; AL's No. 6 seed

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. CLE, 3 at DET, 3 at CLE, 3 vs. CHW, 3 vs. ATL, 2 vs. SDP, 4 at LAA, 3 at OAK, 3 at KCR, 3 vs. TEX, 3 vs. OAK, 4 vs. DET

    From Sep. 2 to 14, things could get dicey for the Seattle Mariners.

    Most of the games are at home, but 11 straight against opponents with postseason aspirations is a tough ask—especially for a team that most recently played in a postseason game a few weeks before the first Harry Potter movie debuted in theaters.

    If the M's can tread water through that stretch, though, it should be smooth sailing to the finish line.

    Seattle's final 20 games are about as easy as it gets, particularly those final seven at home against the A's and Tigers. Thus, surging to claim the AL's No. 4 seed—with help from the current No. 4 and No. 5 seeds (Tampa Bay and Toronto) playing nine more games against each other—feels way more likely than missing the postseason by falling behind Baltimore and/or the first runner-up in the AL Central.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Albert Pujols (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Record: 73-54

    Standings: 6.0 games up in NL Central

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. ATL, 3 at CIN, 3 vs. CHC, 4 vs. WAS, 3 at PIT, 2 vs. MIL, 5 vs. CIN, 3 at SDP, 3 at LAD, 2 at MIL, 3 vs. PIT, 3 at PIT

    I pointed out during the All-Star break that the St. Louis Cardinals faced 69.1 percent of their remaining games against the six worst teams in the National League. At the time, they were just one game behind the Brewers in the NL Central and had DraftKings odds of +150 to win the division and -140 to make the postseason.

    Since then, they have gone 22-10 and have surged to -700 to win their division and -2000 to make the postseason. (Here's hoping you, too, hammered Cardinals +150.)

    The schedule is still pretty darn favorable for the Cards, too. That eight-game road trip against the Padres, Dodgers and Brewers in late September won't be anything close to easy. But with 18 games against the Reds, Pirates, Cubs and Nationals between now and then, St. Louis may well have already won the division by that point.

    They are pretty much only vying for the No. 3 seed, though. At 8.5 games behind the Mets and a full 15 games behind the Dodgers, even an easy schedule won't get the Cardinals back into the running for a first-round bye.

    Though, with four left against Milwaukee and three against San Diego, they will at least have some part in determining who ends up with the No. 6 seed that they'll face in the first round.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Randy Arozarena (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

    Record: 69-57

    Standings: 8.5 GB in AL East, AL's No. 4 seed

    Remaining Schedule: 1 at BOS, 2 at MIA, 3 vs. NYY, 3 vs. BOS, 3 at NYY, 5 at TOR, 3 vs. TEX, 3 vs. HOU, 4 vs. TOR, 3 at CLE, 3 at HOU, 3 at BOS

    No one in the AL East has an easy remaining schedule, but the Tampa Bay Rays', in particular, is #brutal.

    The Rays have 15 games left against division leaders compared to just five contests—the two at Miami this week and the three against Texas in mid-September—against teams no longer realistically in the playoff hunt.

    And even Miami and Texas aren't exactly Washington and Oakland. There's not a free W left on this schedule.

    Tampa Bay is looking pretty good after taking seven out of eight during the recent homestand against the Royals and Angels, but don't be surprised if this team is clinging for dear life to the AL's No. 6 seed a month from now.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

    Record: 68-57

    Standings: 9.0 GB in AL East; AL's No. 5 seed

    Remaining Schedule: 1 vs. LAA, 3 vs. CHC, 3 at PIT, 4 at BAL, 3 at TEX, 5 vs. TBR, 3 vs. BAL, 2 at PHI, 4 at TBR, 3 vs. NYY, 3 vs. BOS, 3 at BAL

    It's now or never if the Toronto Blue Jays still have dreams of chasing down the Yankees for the AL East crown.

    The four-game set in Baltimore will be a challenge, but they are about one-third of the way through a 19-game stretch against teams not projected for the postseason. And needless to say, these are the games you must win when trying to close a sizable gap.

    We'll see where the Jays end up by the morning of Sept. 12, but they'll likely be neck-and-neck with Tampa Bay for the No. 4 seed—just in time for nine head-to-head games in the span of two weeks.

    If either squad wins at least six of those nine games, it would be a major advantage heading into the home stretch.


    Records and standings are current through the end of play on Saturday, August 27.

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