5 series to keep your eye on as postseason races heat up

August 21st, 2023

We're well into the dog days of summer, with fewer than 40 games remaining in the regular season for each team.

As the season winds down, a plethora of teams are duking it out for a playoff race that is on track for a spectacular finish. While some teams (Braves, Dodgers) have all but guaranteed winning their divisions, plenty of races are still open up for each division and especially for the Wild Card spots.

Whether it's in the NL Wild Card race, the AL West or the NL Central, there are enough openings and games left in the season to see big changes in the coming weeks. With this in mind, here are the five series to watch this week.

Giants (65-59) at Phillies (67-57)
3 games (Monday-Wednesday)

Head to head: Times have changed for the better since these two teams met at Oracle Park in May. With both teams several games under .500 at the time, the Giants swept the Phillies in three games, outscoring them 17-to-10. Since May 17, the final day of their first series, the Giants (46-36) and Phillies (47-35) have two of the top-10 records in the Majors.

Storyline: The NL Wild Card picture. While both teams are practically out of their divisional races, they hold the top two spots for the NL Wild Card. It's not by much, though. Only 4 1/2 games separate the Phillies and five other teams right in the race -- the Giants, Reds, Marlins, Cubs and D-backs. With so many NL teams in the thick of it, any lopsided result from this series could seriously alter the playoff landscape. Given the context of the two teams and the Wild Card picture, this is probably the most important series of the week.

Watch out for: . If you haven't watched the Giants' rookie, do yourself a favor and check out a Giants game or two. The rookie catcher is fueling the Giants' playoff push thanks to world-class defense that already has him in the conversation for the best defender in the Majors. Despite debuting in the middle of May, Statcast's Fielding Run Value metrics have Bailey (+13) tied with the Rockies' for the best fielder in baseball. With league-average offense, Bailey has played like a star in 2023 and is a big reason why the Giants are in their current position.

Blue Jays (69-56) at Orioles (77-47)
3 games (Tuesday-Thursday)

Head to head: Baltimore has utterly dominated the season series, winning eight of 10 games against the Blue Jays, while outscoring them 60-to-31. It's hard to not look at the 8 1/2 games that separate the two teams and think how differently the division would look if the season series was more balanced.

Storyline: The Orioles inching closer to a division title. Baltimore has undeniably been one of the most fun storylines of the entire season. At 76-47, the O's currently hold a three-game lead in the AL East over the Rays and a five-game lead over the Rangers for the best record in the AL. The Orioles have been winning in an entertaining fashion, backed by a movement of young stars and a lights-out bullpen. If they can hold onto this lead, Camden Yards will be a party come October.

Watch out for: . The Jays' best hitter this season returned from the injured list on Saturday after missing roughly three weeks with right knee patellar tendinitis. The timing couldn't be better for an offense that posted a measly .685 OPS in Bichette's absence. With Toronto's offense surprisingly being about a league-average unit in '23, Bichette and his 136 wRC+ -- tied for 12th-best among qualified players -- are key to kickstarting some runs for a playoff-hopeful Blue Jays team.

Twins (65-60) at Brewers (68-57)
2 games (Tuesday-Wednesday)

Head to head: The Twins swept a two-game series against the Brewers in Minnesota in June. The first of those games had a wild finish that was capped by 's walk-off home run against .

Storyline: Could the Twins and Brewers both win their division in the same year for the first time? Since the Brewers/Seattle Pilots were added as an expansion team in 1969, Milwaukee and Minnesota have never won their respective divisions in the same year. That could change this season, with the Brewers holding a three-game lead over the Cubs and the Twins holding a six-game lead over the Guardians. If it happens, the two cities that are only separated by a five-hour drive will have plenty of exciting baseball coming in October.

Watch out for: . The 31-year-old has had a resurgent season after struggling from 2020-22. Whereas Yelich produced just 4.4 combined WAR during the previous three seasons, he has nearly matched that with 3.8 WAR in '23, tied for 19th-best among qualified position players. While not quite at the MVP level of his 2018-19 seasons, Yelich's bounceback to a star-level player has been one of the reasons for Milwaukee's standing in the division.

Dodgers (76-47) at Red Sox (66-58)
3 games (Friday-Sunday)

Head to head: This is just the second time the two teams have matched up since the Red Sox beat the Dodgers in five games in the 2018 World Series. When Los Angeles visited Boston in the 2019 season, the Dodgers took two of three games.

Storyline: returns to Boston. Few players in MLB history have impacted two of baseball's premier teams the way Betts has. From 2014-19 with the Red Sox, Betts was a four-time All-Star, won AL MVP in 2018 and was a key cog in Boston's title run that October. During that time, Betts' 37 WAR was bested only by (50.4) and (38.1). Since his trade to the Dodgers prior to the 2020 season, Betts has been a three-time All-Star and ranks fourth in WAR (19.7).

Watch out for: Betts and . It's not hyperbolic to say that the duo has been one of the most dominant pairs of teammates in MLB history. The two superstars have combined for 12.3 WAR, the most by any pair of teammates in the Majors and approached only by and (11.6). The Betts-Freeman duo has collectively hit .316/.403/.585 across 1,098 plate appearances. It is, by every measure, one of the most impressive performances we've ever seen from two teammates in a single season.

Yankees (60-64) at Rays (75-41)
3 games (Friday-Sunday)

Head to head: The Rays, who currently hold the top AL Wild Card spot, have a stunning 14-game lead over the Yankees. Their head-to-head matchups this season, however, have been much closer affairs. Tampa Bay has taken six out of 10 games against the Yankees, outscoring them by just eight runs. In their last matchup, the Rays took two of three games at Yankee Stadium.

Storyline: Making sense of where the Rays stand. Tampa Bay started the season with a staggering 27-6 record and 13 straight wins to begin the year. Since that point, they've played just above .500 with a 48-45 record. With done for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, on the restricted list and other major injuries to their pitching staff, the team is in a very different place than it was at the beginning of the season. The Rays are still a good team in a playoff position -- their FanGraphs' playoff odds are at 96.9% -- but the shine has faded quite a bit in recent months.

Watch out for: . The 32-year-old has turned into one of baseball's best hitters and is in the midst of a career-best season. With an AL-leading .325 batting average, Díaz has a shot to win the first batting title in Rays franchise history. With a .325/.402/.502 batting line, he's also looking to become just the second Rays player with a .300 BA, .400 OBP and .500 SLG in a single season (min. 500 plate appearances) and the first since in 1999.