FINAL WEEK! How contenders line up

September 28th, 2021

The goal remains simple for every remaining postseason contender: Win every game possible, and let the rest take care of itself. No matter if it’s an October-bound club or an also-ran left on the schedule, teams still have to take care of business. 

That schedule can sometimes make a tiny difference, however, and every tiny difference counts between now and Sunday’s regular-season finale. Similar to the exercise ran at the beginning of the month, here is a look at the remaining slates for clubs that still have something at stake (a postseason berth, division title, home-field advantage in the League Division Series) across the final week, listed alongside their remaining strength of schedule via FanGraphs’ playoff odds

Note: Strength of schedule figures are as of Sunday.

AL Wild Card race

Red Sox: .430
Remaining matchups: at Orioles (3 games), at Nationals (3 games)

The road is seemingly favorable for Boston, which has already taken 12 of its first 16 matchups against the Orioles this year.

Yankees: .564
Remaining matchups: at Blue Jays (3 games), vs. Rays (3 games)

The Yanks have rallied multiple times this year to keep themselves in the Wild Card hunt, and they’ll need one last strong push against two fellow AL East postseason contenders to get over the hump. They have played sub-.500 baseball against both Toronto (6-10) and Tampa Bay (7-9) to this point.

Blue Jays: .495
Remaining matchups: vs. Yankees (3 games), vs. Orioles (3 games)

An absolutely huge opportunity awaits the Blue Jays when the Yankees cross the border, and we’ll likely know a lot about what they’re made of (postseason-bound or not) after that three-game set.

Toronto could get a small advantage in facing the Orioles in the final weekend while the Yankees play the Rays (who could still be battling for the AL’s best record); the Blue Jays are 11-5 against Baltimore and outscored the O’s, 44-19, in their most recent three-game set earlier this month.

Mariners: .499
Remaining matchups: vs. Athletics (3 games), vs. Angels (3 games)

The Mariners got back into the Wild Card hunt with a huge four-game sweep of the A's this past week, and now they’ll have an opportunity to really put Oakland away for good. Seattle is a combined 22-10 against the A’s (12-4) and Angels (10-6).

Athletics: .533
Remaining matchups: at Mariners (3 games), at Astros (3 games)

The A’s have not been able to figure out the Mariners, but this week presents one last opportunity for revenge and a window back into the Wild Card chase. Should Oakland break through and sweep the M’s to stay alive, the Astros (who could still be chasing the Rays for best AL record) will be waiting.

NL West race

Giants: .506
Remaining matchups: vs. D-backs (3 games), vs. Padres (3 games)

Dodgers: .557
Remaining matchups: vs. Padres (3 games), vs. Brewers (3 games)

The NL West has revolved around the Dodgers, Giants and Padres, and the division’s winner could be determined by who fares against San Diego best in the final week. The Giants have the seemingly more favorable non-common opponent in the D-backs, who they have dominated with a 14-2 head-to-head record. But Milwaukee has the NL Central sewn up and is locked into the NL’s No. 2 seed entering its final-weekend series in Los Angeles, meaning the Crew could rest some starters.

NL East race

Braves: .520
Remaining matchups: vs. Phillies (3 games), vs. Mets (3 games)

Phillies: .491
Remaining matchups: at Braves (3 games), at Marlins (3 games)

Many projected the NL East race to be a gauntlet before the season, and now it has funneled down to a huge three-game series starting Tuesday in Atlanta. The Phillies just barely have the upper hand over the Braves in the season series, 9-7, but Atlanta has actually outscored Philadelphia by 11 runs in those showdowns.

The wild card here could actually come from the woebegone Mets: Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom are pushing to return before season’s end, meaning the Braves could see at least one of those flamethrowers in their final series.

NL Wild Card race

Cardinals: .489
Remaining matchups: vs. Brewers (3 games), vs. Cubs (3 games)

At this point, does it matter who the Cardinals play? Rolling through a franchise record 16-game win streak and counting, St. Louis has personified the phrase “control one’s own destiny” by elevating itself from Wild Card fringes to near-postseason lock. The Cards might have also caught a break by avoiding Brewers starters Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, each of whom pitched over the weekend. St. Louis just swept a four-game set in Milwaukee this past week.

Reds: .463
Remaining matchups: vs. Pirates (makeup game), at White Sox (2 games), at Pirates (3 games)

The Reds have not played inspired September baseball, but their remaining schedule offers one last glimmer of hope to catch the white-hot Cardinals. Cincinnati has gone 11-4 against the Pirates this year, and the White Sox, likely locked into the AL’s No. 3 seed, could rest their stars.

Home-field advantage in AL playoffs

Rays: .592
Remaining matchups: at Astros (3 games), at Yankees (3 games)

Tampa Bay has held the AL’s best record for weeks and already has the AL East title in hand, but it will get some nice training for October with back-to-back series against teams it beat last postseason -- and might soon face again.

Astros: .543
Remaining matchups: vs. Rays (3 games), vs. A’s (3 games)

The Astros are six games back of the Rays for the AL’s top seed, but this week’s three-game set at home against Tampa Bay gives them one last chance to make a charge. Houston took two of three at Tropicana Field at the beginning of May.