8 key storylines to watch in season's final week

September 25th, 2023

We have, amazingly, reached the final week of the season.

It seems like Opening Day was just yesterday, with Yankees fans feting Anthony Volpe in his Major League debut, Adley Rutschman going 5-for-5 and Adam Wainwright singing the national anthem at Busch Stadium. Next week, there will be playoff games. It happens fast.

But not so fast that there aren’t a load of things to keep track of in this season’s final week. There are storylines galore as we wrap up the 2023 regular season, and so much that you won’t want to miss. Here’s what we’ll all be watching over the next week.

Soak it all in: After this, we won’t get to watch every MLB team play again until March 28, 2024. I miss this season already, and it’s not even over yet.

The wild, wild AL West
The American League West race has been head-spinning for weeks now. Months, even. The Rangers started out so hot, the Astros were quietly excellent, and then the Mariners went on a wild winning streak that threw it all into chaos. With one week to go, we still don’t have many answers. We do know one thing, though: We can go to Seattle to find them. The Mariners host the Astros for three games and then the Rangers for four. Those are seven games that will be face-meltingly intense. (The Astros get the D-backs in the other series; the Rangers get the Angels.) Who will win the division? Who will clinch a Wild Card? Will one of these teams not make the playoffs at all? (Hello, Toronto.) Every single game with these three teams is absolutely unmissable.

The NL Wild Card chase
This one has been almost as topsy-turvy as the AL West. The Phillies have essentially locked up the top National League Wild Card spot and the right to host their Wild Card Series. But everything else is up in the air. The Padres and Giants are probably out at this point, and the Reds seem to have run out of gas down the stretch despite getting back into the win column on Sunday. (Though they’re hardly out of it, and their two days off this week add a fun wrinkle into all this.) But the D-backs, Cubs and Marlins will be scraping and clawing at every inch for the final two spots. The schedule actually favors the Marlins, who get to play the Mets and Pirates, and works against the Cubs, who will face the Braves and Brewers. Alas, none of these teams play each other (unless you count that Giants-Padres series), which means it’ll be nonstop scoreboard watching. Also: Make sure you know all your tiebreakers by heart.

Can the Orioles hang on in the AL East?
Speaking of tiebreakers, the O’s have the tiebreaker over the Rays and a 2 1/2-game lead, so they really just need to hang on in their two games against the Nationals and four against the Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Rays have two against the Red Sox and three against the Blue Jays who, uh, have their own impetus to win every game possible. The Orioles have a chance to win their second division title this century and -- even more important -- nail down the No. 1 seed in the AL. That would give them a bye, while the Rays have to deal with a best-of-three Wild Card Series. These two teams may not be done with each other, though: There’s a very real chance they’ll meet in the AL Division Series.

Who will wrap up the NL MVP Award?
It’s difficult to remember an MVP race with more intrigue than the one we have in the NL. has been the clubhouse leader for most of the season, but has been on a tear for two months now and actually leads Acuña in WAR. He has also played every position the Dodgers have asked him to, and played them well. Then again, Acuña has a 40-40 season … and maybe a 40-70 season. Oh, and they’re the leaders of the best teams in the NL. Will one pull away in the final week? Or will they both remain just as equally brilliant as they’ve been all year?

Will make it to 30-30?
Acuña has hit the 30-30 mark, and so has the Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez. But the Royals’ Witt Jr. -- who has had the most stealthily incredible season in recent memory; he’s even good at defense now! -- is one homer away from becoming the third member of the 30-30 club this season. We haven’t had three 30-30 seasons in one year since we had five in 2011. Witt actually needs just that one homer and two more stolen bases to put together the fourth 30-50 season ever. Barry Bonds and Eric Davis did it … and of course, Acuña has already done it this year.

Can not get thrown out stealing?
Turner is actually four homers and one stolen base short of having a 30-30 season himself, but there’s another aspect of his year that’s even more fascinating: He has gone 29-for-29 in stolen-base attempts, which would be the most steals without being caught in baseball history. (Chase Utley went 23-for-23 in 2009). Will he push it to 30? Or will he not risk being thrown out? We say go for it, Trea!

Can stay above .350?
It has been a while since we were on Arraez .400 watch, but the Marlins star still can make some batting average history in the final week. If he can stay above .350 -- he’s at .353 right now -- he’ll become the first player to hit above .350 for a full season since Josh Hamilton in 2010. It would be his second consecutive batting title after winning the AL crown with a .316 average last year.

Saying goodbye to legends
, mercifully, didn’t break his shin when he hit a ball off it last week, so we get a final week to say goodbye to the future Hall of Famer. Now that Wainwright has his 200th win, he’ll have a big fun sendoff at Busch Stadium over the final weekend … and he’s even going to sing. (And probably hit. He’s a former Silver Slugger, after all.) This is the last time to see both of those legends, but they’re only the ones we know about. Could this be the last time we see, say, Zack Greinke on a mound? How about Rich Hill? Even Joey Votto? These are players we have been watching for decades. This could be the last time we ever see them in a big league uniform. Cherish it. You know they will.