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Teams with toughest (and easiest) final week

@RichardJustice
September 21, 2020

The Marlins, Mariners and Reds have the toughest remaining schedules among MLB contenders, while the Astros and Cardinals have the easiest. Considering those teams have played with playoff-like pressure for weeks, a difficult schedule is one more hurdle to climb. For teams like Houston and St. Louis, any break --

The Marlins, Mariners and Reds have the toughest remaining schedules among MLB contenders, while the Astros and Cardinals have the easiest.

Considering those teams have played with playoff-like pressure for weeks, a difficult schedule is one more hurdle to climb. For teams like Houston and St. Louis, any break -- even a perceived break -- can be critical at a time when both teams have overcome hurdle after hurdle to get to this point.

Here are the toughest schedules among contending teams who haven't clinched a postseason berth:

1) Marlins
Remaining opponents' win %: .585
Schedule: Four games vs. Braves in Atlanta, three vs. Yankees in New York

This is the definition of a difficult final week. The Braves have won seven of 11 to open up a three-game lead in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Yanks averaged 8.5 runs per game during their 10-game win streak which ended Sunday. The Marlins are 3-3 against Atlanta in 2020, and they'll be playing New York for the first time this year.

2) Mariners
Remaining opponents' win %: .574
Schedule: Three games vs. Astros, four vs. A's in Oakland
Three home games against a Houston team that's four games ahead of them is the Mariners' best postseason chance in years and they're hanging on by a thread. They’ve lost 10 of 13 against the Astros and A's thus far in 2020, including five of six against Houston. But to enter the final week of the season with a chance is all Seattle could ask for. If the Mariners sweep the Astros, they’ll have four against an Oakland team that currently has a magic number of one to clinch the AL West.

3) Reds
Remaining opponents' win %: .551
Schedule: Three games vs. Brewers, three vs. Twins in Minnesota

Cincinnati has won seven of its past eight games and is playing its best baseball of the season in trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Reds are one of six National League teams with between 24 and 27 losses that appear to be fighting for four spots. They are 4-3 against the Brewers this year, but they haven’t yet played the Twins.

4) Giants
Remaining opponents' win %: .538
Schedule: Four games vs. Rockies, four vs. Padres

The Giants lost four of seven games in the regular season's penultimate week in trying to capture their first postseason berth since 2016. They’ll get all eight remaining games at Oracle Park, where they’re 16-9 in '20. San Francisco is 2-4 against the Rockies and 1-5 against the Padres this year.

5) Blue Jays
Remaining opponents' win %: .516
Schedule: Four games vs. Yankees, three vs. Orioles

The best hope for the Jays would be that the Yanks could lose a bit of focus as they line things up for the postseason and that the O's might be out of gas after a surprising season. Toronto is 2-4 against New York and 6-1 against Baltimore this year.

6) Brewers
Remaining opponents' win %: .512
Schedule: Three games vs. Reds in Cincinnati, five vs. Cardinals in St. Louis

The Brewers have one of the toughest schedules, but they also might control their destiny more than any other team. They are tied with the Reds, who own the tiebreaker for the No. 8 seed, and they trail the Cardinals by one game for second place. A hot week and they probably keep playing.

7T) Mets
Remaining opponents' win %: .500
Schedule: Three games vs. Rays, four vs. Nationals in Washington

The Mets are on the fringe of contention despite losing 13 of 22 games since Aug. 29. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that neither of their remaining opponents are likely to have much to play for. The Rays have clinched home-field in their AL Wild Card Series, and the Nats are out of contention a year after winning the World Series.

7T) Phillies
Remaining opponents' win %: .500
Schedule: Four games vs. Nationals in Washington, three vs. Rays in St. Petersburg

This is as good a scenario as the Phillies could have hoped for, as they’ve hovered around .500 for most of the month. They’re 6-0 against the Nats in 2020.

Here are the three easiest schedules among contending teams who haven't clinched (or finished trying to clinch):

1) Astros
Remaining opponents' win %: .391
Schedule: Three games vs. Mariners in Seattle, four vs. Rangers in Arlington

The Astros are 10-3 against the Mariners and Rangers in 2020, and even at a time when they’ve lost 11 of 17, they’ve still got the easiest path to a fourth straight postseason appearance.

2) Cardinals
Remaining opponents' win %: .461
Schedule: Three games vs. Royals in Kansas City, five vs. Brewers

Things haven't been simple for the Cardinals all season, and they won’t be in this final week, either. The Brewers are still in contention, and like the Cards, playing a string of must-win games. Even if St. Louis is still in contention after the final eight regular-season games, it may have to play a makeup doubleheader against the Tigers if it settles a playoff berth.

3) Padres
Remaining opponents' win %: .475
Schedule: Two games vs. Angels, four vs. Giants in San Francisco

The Padres already clinched, but they might not be done. They say they would like to chase down the Dodgers and win the NL West, but that may take a backseat to lining things up for October. In addition, San Diego already has home-field advantage in hand.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.