Final weekend will be nuts -- we ranked the series

July 8th, 2020

The release of the 2020 MLB schedule on Monday night was, to many baseball fans, a blast of cool air to the middle of the brain: Actual scheduled baseball games, on actual days of the week, with game times and everything.

But with a season that is as compact as this one, with every game on the schedule meaning so much, I find myself looking not at the beginning of the season, but the end. Because if all these division races are tight heading into the last weekend -- and with a 60-game season, how could they not be? -- that final weekend of games will be particularly exciting.

MLB is starting all the games on Sept. 27, the final day of the season, at 3:05 p.m. ET again, and with such tight margins, it seems inevitable that we might get the sort of madness we haven’t seen since 2011. After all: That weekend is 1/20th of the whole season!

So today, let’s not look to the first week set of games, but the last set. Here’s a ranking of the potential excitement and pennant-chase relevance for all the series of the final weekend. It could end up being absolute madness.

1) Mets at Nationals: These are two of the top contenders in what should be a fascinating National League East race, and they have, of course, all sorts of rivalry history. Imagine them tied heading into the final day of the season, and it lines up to be Max Scherzer vs. Jacob deGrom.

2) Cubs at White Sox: The South Siders have been slowly building up the sort of roster that can take advantage of the North Siders’ uncertainty with their own roster. Could this be the series when the Chicago torch is finally passed? Imagine if both teams are battling for a playoff spot and one could clinch and also play spoiler for the other?

3) Angels at Dodgers: The Dodgers look for all the world to still be the World Series favorites this year, but with the Angels loaded up, and Mike Trout still never having won a postseason game, this Freeway Series could be one of the most memorable ones in a decade.

4) Red Sox at Braves: Now this is a fun final weekend Interleague matchup. The Braves are probably a better bet to be a playoff team than the Red Sox, but they’re both extremely high-profile teams with all sorts of star power. If the Red Sox are still contending in the American League East, this could push to the top of our list.

5) Reds at Twins: A sneaky-good closing weekend series, there’s a non-zero possibility that these could be the two Central Division champions this year.

6) Astros at Rangers: The intrastate rivalry has all sorts of history, and then you mix in the Astros’ status as baseball’s equivalent of wrestling heels right now and the Rangers playing in a brand-spanking-new park.

7) Brewers at Cardinals: This is a four-game set to end the year between the most recent two teams to win the National League Central.

8) Phillies at Rays: Two teams that are competitive but sort of at opposite ends of the spectrum: The Phillies are trying to finally show some proof-of-concept for their rebuilding plan, and the Rays feel like they’re just starting out a whole new era of success for their organization. Also: Hopefully they won’t honor this rematch of the 2008 World Series by having the final game of this series last two days.

9) Marlins at Yankees: I’m on record as saying this is the first year since 2017 that the Marlins finish out of the basement in the NL East, and if they have something to play for, Derek Jeter’s boys could be a serious spoiler for his old mates in The Bronx.

10) Mariners at A’s: The A’s are already a stealth World Series pick for many people, and the Mariners could be the ideal team against which to clinch a playoff spot at home. Though it would be truly amazing if the Mariners ended their nearly 20-year playoff drought this year.

11) Rockies at D-backs: One unquestioned positive of this short season is that we won’t spend a disproportionate percentage of it discussing whether or not Nolan Arenado is going to get traded.

12) Padres at Giants: It seems more likely that the Padres will have something to play for than the Giants here, but no matter what, Oracle Park will look gorgeous in late September.

13) Pirates at Indians: It might be a dark year for the Pirates, and this series’ importance may depend entirely on whether Cleveland is still hanging around the AL Central race.

14) Orioles at Blue Jays: Toronto has precisely the sort of roster -- lots of young hitters, intriguing arms, aces who get injured over a long season but dominate in short stints -- that could make an odd sort of run over a 60-game slate. The Orioles, however, are still probably a year or two away from that point.

15) Tigers at Royals: If this series has any serious postseason implications, something has gone legitimately insane with the 2020 baseball season. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!