MLB playoff clinching scenarios for Cubs, Marlins, Astros, Mariners & more entering final weekend

With three days remaining in the 2023 regular season, plenty remains to be settled in the wild card races, in both the National and American Leagues. 

The Max Chaos scenarios that seemed fingers-crossed possible for the past few weeks have disappeared, with the Giants falling apart down the stretch and Texas taking control of the AL West. Oh well.

Still, though, it’s very possible — likely, even — that Game 162 will matter for multiple teams, with playoff berths on the line. Because, remember, under the new CBA, there are no tie-breaking games, only tie-breaking scenarios, to determine who makes the playoffs and who misses the postseason. 

Here’s an updated look at the MLB playoff clinching scenarios for both the American and National leagues entering the final weekend of games for the 2023 regular season.

MORE: Explaining how MLB playoff tiebreakers will work in 2023

MLB playoff scenarios 2023

National League Wild Card standings

Three teams get in via wild cards, of course, and the Phillies have already clinched the top wild-card spot, meaning there are two spots available for four teams. 

  • Diamondbacks: 84-75, +1.5
  • Marlins: 82-76 —
  • Cubs: 82-77, 0.5 GB
  • Reds: 81-78, 1.5 GB

Arizona Diamondbacks

Final three games: Home vs. Astros

Arizona’s in the driver’s seat, but the lead could have been more comfortable had the D-backs managed more than three hits in a 3-1 loss to the 98-loss White Sox on Thursday. Or, had they not given away leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 in a loss to the Yankees on Monday. You’ll notice quickly they’re not the only wild-card hopeful coughing up leads, though. And the D-backs have the toughest three games remaining, a rather fascinating series against the Astros. Houston, of course, is fighting to stay alive in the AL playoff race, which means the home team won’t be facing minor-leaguers trying to impress on the mound and rookies getting extra ABs.

Miami Marlins

Final three games: At Pirates

One thing the Marlins have going for them: They own pretty much every wild-card tiebreaker, thanks to head-to-head advantages against the Cubs and Diamondbacks, and owning the second tiebreaker against the Reds. The stretch drive hasn’t exactly been smooth for the Marlins, but they have shown to be very resilient, not letting big defeats carry into the next day. They’re 15-9 in September, despite getting outscored in those nine losses by a total score of 66-14. And they’ve made the run with ace Sandy Alcantara on the IL. It’s really impressive. Now, how do they rebound from that rain-delayed, suspended-game debacle in New York on Thursday night? Sheesh. 

Chicago Cubs

Final three games: At Brewers

The Cubs seemed to have a wild-card spot basically locked up in early September, but they lost 10 of 13 games — including six of seven to the Diamondbacks — in a stretch that put everything in doubt. And that series in Atlanta, losing all three games by a total of four runs? Kinda brutal. Self-inflicted, but brutal nonetheless. Know what else is brutal? The Cubs own zero tiebreakers, meaning they have to finished one game ahead of at least two of the four teams to stay in the mix. So, essentially, they start the weekend not a half-game back of the Marlins, but 1 1/2 games behind the fish. 

The Brewers would probably take a bit of pleasure in keeping the division-rival Cubs out of the postseason with a couple wins in the last three games, but they won’t ask for max effort from their best pitchers to make that happen. Even if Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta start games in that series, they’ll almost certainly be on limited pitch counts to make sure they’re fresh for the postseason. 

Cincinnati Reds

Final three games: At Cardinals

Big picture, it’s a tribute to the Reds that they’re still in this position, what with all the injuries and rookies and general craziness of this season. It also feels like this is a franchise that will be back in the playoff picture on a regular basis going forward. But, folks, Cincinnati has a couple just brutal losses lately. On Sept. 20, Hunter Greene struck out 14 Twins and left the game with a 3-1 lead, only to watch the bullpen blow the lead. Very next game, the Reds gave up leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 5-4 in a loss to the Pirates. That seemed trivial compared to the very next night, where they built a 9-0 lead by the third inning, only to lose, 13-12. 

American League Wild Card standings

The AL standings are a bit more complex, considering that the Rangers are leading the West but still haven’t clinched anything yet. Their loss to the Mariners on Thursday — drama, y’all — kept their status in doubt, at least a little bit. The Rays, of course, clinched the top AL wild card spot long ago, leaving two up for grabs.

  • Rangers: 89-70, +2 AL West
  • Blue Jays: 88-71, +1
  • Astros: 87-72 —
  • Mariners: 86-73, 1 GB

Texas Rangers

Final three games: At Seattle

The Rangers did a great job rebounding from what looked to be a season-dooming swoon. From Aug. 16 to Sept. 8, they went just 4-16. They went from leading the West by 3 1/2 games to 3 out of the division race and 1 1/2 games out of the third wild-card spot. The sky was falling. Since then, though? They’re 13-6, best record in the AL. It seems unlikely that they’d lose all four games in Seattle to end the season — they could have clinched a playoff berth if Aroldis Chapman had not imploded in the ninth on Thursday — but we’ve seen enough from that Texas bullpen to know no lead is safe. 

Toronto Blue Jays

Final three games: Home, vs. Rays

The Jays are playing a team locked into its playoff position, but playing the Rays is never easy, as every team in the league can attest. Basically, Jays fans are rooting hard for the Rangers, because if it comes down to the Jays vs. the Mariners for the final spot, the Jays go home. The Jays have to feel good about how their rotation is set up, with Yusei Kikuchi set for Friday, Hyun Jin Ryu scheduled for Saturday and ace Kevin Gausman lined up to start Game 162, if their playoff status is in doubt. 

Houston Astros

Final three games: At Diamondbacks

As we said earlier, that series in Arizona should be all kinds of fun, with the games meaning so much to both teams. That the Astros are in this position of uncertainty is a bit surprising. They’d taking control of the West, with the Rangers’ swoon, owning a 2 1/2-game lead in the division after a win on Sept. 10. Since then, though, they’re just 5-10, including an anemic 2-7 record against the A’s and Royals, the two AL teams with 100-plus losses. The Astros did take two of three from the Mariners in a huge series in Seattle this week, though, perhaps saving their season. They were off on Thursday, surely a much-needed day of rest. 

Seattle Mariners

Final three games: Home, vs. Rangers

Here’s what you need to know about Seattle’s awful September, after an unbelievable August: The Mariners are 4-13 this month when playing teams over .500, including Thursday’s dramatic ninth-inning comeback win against the Rangers. Hard to get into the postseason to compete against the best teams when you can’t beat the best teams. But at this point, haven’t we learned that beating the odds and overcoming seemingly impossible odds are two things these Mariners do very well? 

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