Another day, another 6 HUGE games today in postseason scramble

September 28th, 2023

If you’re a fan of a team that perpetually makes the postseason -- an Astros or Dodgers fan, for example -- you know that you have to prepare yourself for what the playoffs can do to you. You try to store up as much sleep, as much calm, as you can in the week before the playoffs begin, knowing that, once the ball gets going in these postseason series, you’re going to be a frantic mess all evening and in a zombified state the next day … before repeating the process the next day. (And every day for the next month, if you’re lucky.) Theoretically, this week is the time to get your mind right.

But with all this madness going on, who can get their mind right? Wednesday night was another madhouse night of baseball, with the Cubs suffering another heartbreaker in Atlanta, the Orioles getting oh so close to that division title and the Blue Jays really starting to put some real fear in the hearts of their fanbase. It’s already exhausting. Next week? We’re just trying to make it to tomorrow.

Oh, yes, tomorrow: We’re going to do all this again Thursday. Here’s a look at the games on Thursday that you won’t want to miss.

• Take a good look at the postseason picture

D-backs at White Sox: D-backs lost, 3-1
There were four afternoon games on Thursday, but only one of them had any relevance to the playoff chase -- this one. The D-backs fell in Chicago, so their magic number to clinch a playoff spot remained at 2. Now they'll head home for the season's final three games against a desperate Astros team that's also in a battle for a postseason berth.

Red Sox at Orioles (Chris Sale vs. Dean Kremer), 6:35 p.m. ET
Tonight could be the night. Orioles fans have seen a lot of losing since their last AL East division title -- not to mention since they last won 100 games, a number they’d reach with a win Thursday -- but all that will just feel like prelude with a win over the hated Red Sox at Camden Yards on Thursday. A win, thanks to the Orioles’ tiebreaker advantage over the Rays, would not only clinch the AL East -- it would secure the No. 1 seed in the American League. It won’t be easy: The Orioles will have to beat Sale. But of all the parties we’ve seen so far this month, it’s fair to say there will be no bigger one than the one we’ll see at Camden Yards on Thursday night if the O’s can win this game. Get ready, Orioles fans. This could be the night you’ve been waiting a long, long time for.

Yankees at Blue Jays (Luke Weaver vs. Chris Bassitt), 7:07 p.m. ET
The Yankees have had a hugely disappointing season, but you can forgive the Blue Jays for feeling a little beaten down by them nevertheless. A Rogers Centre crowd desperate to see their home nine lock down a playoff spot against a team playing out the string has watched the Blue Jays go two straight games without scoring a run. This has happened at the worst possible time for the Jays, who really have just needed to take care of business while all the AL West teams were knocking each other around … but haven’t been able to. You’d think Weaver (who is not, it turns out, Gerrit Cole) would be someone the Jays could get the bats going against, but this offense has been alternately overwhelming and disappearing all season; it sure looks like they’re vanishing when the Jays need them the most. It’s still all set up for the Jays if they can just win a couple more games. But they’re running out of time to do so. Fast.

Marlins at Mets (Jesús Luzardo vs. David Peterson), 7:10 p.m. ET
It would have been nice if the Marlins had swept the Mets on Wednesday, but, thanks to the Cubs’ loss in Atlanta, the split will suffice. Gaining that half-game on the Cubs was massive, putting the Marlins in that last Wild Card spot, thanks to their tiebreaker advantage. Here’s something the Marlins haven’t been able to say for a while: They control their own destiny. Over the last four games, this one in Queens and then three in Pittsburgh, they simply need to be as good as the Cubs -- not better, just as good -- and they will be playing in Milwaukee on Tuesday. Luzardo is the right guy on the mound for them. The Mets look ready for the season to be over. The Marlins are holding a winning hand right now. Will they play it?

Cubs at Braves (Marcus Stroman vs. AJ Smith-Shawver), 7:20 p.m. ET
How snakebit are the Cubs right now? They get themselves a lead heading into the bottom of the 10th against a team that had essentially nothing to play for … and then they had to face Ronald Acuña Jr. with the tying run on third base. Acuña didn’t just knock home the winning run; he made history with his 70th steal of the season and then scored when fellow All-Star and best pal Ozzie Albies knocked him home to secure a second consecutive absolutely brutal loss for the Cubs. This is a team without anything to play for? The one that makes you face Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies with everything on the line? Sheesh. The Cubs now are essentially on the outside looking in of the Wild Card chase, but the nice thing is that there are still four games left … all against teams that, all together now, don’t really have much to play for. (The Braves are locked into the No. 1 seed, and the Brewers are locked into No. 3.) But the Cubs have already frittered away any margin for error they ever had. They have the look of one of those old, pre-2016 cursed Cubs team. They best turn this around immediately.

Rangers at Mariners (Jordan Montgomery vs. Logan Gilbert), 9:40 p.m. ET
Of all the scenarios the Mariners imagined for their end-of-days 10-game closing stretch against the two teams in their division that they were also fighting tooth-and-nail with for the AL West title and a Wild Card slot, here’s one they probably didn’t see coming: It’s possible the Rangers will have already clinched the AL West by Friday night and thus want to rest everyone on the final two days of the season, giving the Mariners one last gasp of hope. Grim, right? This is to say that the 10-day stretch has gotten off to a truly disastrous start. So far, they’re 1-5, and they’ve gone from being tied with the Rangers when it started to, if they lose Thursday, eliminated from catching them for the division title seven games in. Oh, and they’re facing the Rangers’ hottest starter in Montgomery, who just shut them out five days ago. Lose this game, and Seattle will be out of the AL West chase entirely, two games behind the Astros and, depending on how the Blue Jays do against the Yankees on Thursday, three games behind them. With three games to go. It’s … getting dark in Seattle right now.