MLB playoffs to start next week – a breakdown

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: October baseball. The MLB playoffs start Oct. 5, with some teams still vying for a spot, while others have already clinched their division. Let’s take a look at the favorites, the wildcards, and the craziness that is late-season baseball.

The structure of the playoffs consists of three division winners from the American League and three from the National League, as well as two wild card teams from each league. The wild card spots are for the teams who did not win their division but have the next best records. Wild cards will play a single-game elimination to advance to the top seed of their league in the first round.

The National League

The NL side of the bracket is mostly solidified after this week of divisional races. The NL Central title was clinched by the Milwaukee Brewers. The Atlanta Braves won their fourth-consecutive division title after some worthwhile trade deadline acquisitions. 

The mighty NL West has already seen two teams qualify for a playoff spot, with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers’ impressive records securing their postseason. The Giants are poised to take the division for the first time in nine seasons, relegating the Dodgers to a winner-takes-all Wild Card Game.

Assuming the Dodgers settle for a wild card spot, they will have to face the red-hot red birds: the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals recently ended a 17-game winning streak — the most in franchise history. 

The NL is stacked. It would be unsurprising to see the Giants or whoever wins the Wild Card Game holding the World Series trophy by the end of October. Being an Atlanta fan, here is hoping something weird happens and the Braves win it all.

The American League 

After being two games away from winning the World Series last year, the Tampa Bay Rays clinched the AL East and became the top seed on their side. The Chicago White Sox became the first team to win a division title, albeit in a struggling AL Central.

On Sept. 30, the Houston Astros—the hometown team for many Hilltoppers—won the AL West. This will be the fifth consecutive year going to the postseason. They will play the White Sox on Oct. 7.

It will come down to the wire for both AL wild card spots. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, and Seattle Mariners are within 2 ½ games of each other. With two wild card spots up for grabs, it is anyone’s game. 

The Yankees are in front of the pack and starting to heat up at the right time. Boston or Seattle will likely duke it out for the second spot. But, Red Sox versus Yankees postseason games make for beautiful baseball, should the rivals meet up in the Wild Card Game.

Tampa Bay seems intent on making it back to the biggest stage in baseball. However, Houston knows how to navigate a postseason, having made it to the AL or World Series Championship every year since 2017. Though it may not matter, considering how impressive the Giants and Dodgers have been this season.