Which contenders have toughest slates left?

September 23rd, 2019

It all comes down to this -- the final week of the 2019 regular season, when the postseason races will be decided, once and for all.

With only one week to go, there are still playoff spots in both leagues up for grabs, and several teams are still in the hunt. But not every team's final week is created equal. For some contenders, the last stretch of the road to October looks a lot tougher than it does for others.

Those teams' season-ending schedules could have a big impact on the final standings. Of course, anything can happen, no matter how hard or how easy a slate looks on paper.

But here’s a look at how the teams still vying for postseason spots are set up for the last week of the regular season, ranked from the most difficult schedule to the easiest:


1. Rays (92-64): one vs. BOS, two vs. NYY, three at TOR

The Rays are clinging to the second AL Wild Card slot, tied with the Indians. They catch a break in their final series against the fourth-place Blue Jays, against whom they are 12-4 this year, but it's getting there that could be the problem. Tampa Bay starts its week with the finale of a four-game set against the Red Sox on Monday. Even though Boston is eliminated from postseason contention, the Sox are tough. Tampa Bay is 11-7 against the Red Sox this year, including taking two of the first three of the current series. Then come two games vs. the 102-win Yankees, who have clinched the AL East but are still fighting for postseason home-field advantage.

Tiebreakers: If the Rays end up tied with the Indians, Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker, thanks to its 6-1 record against Cleveland this season. But if the Rays tie with the A's, Oakland holds the tiebreaker, having gone 4-3 against the Rays.

2. Indians (92-64): three at CWS, three at WSH

The Indians come out of the weekend having just finished a hard-fought Interleague series against the Phillies, and they're tied with the Rays for the second Wild Card. That was Cleveland's final home series of 2019. The Indians finish the season with a six-game road trip. First up are the White Sox, who are 19 games under .500 but are 9-7 against the Indians this year. Then comes a huge final series against another tough Interleague opponent, the Nationals, who might be fighting tooth and nail for a postseason spot themselves. Cleveland is just 25-36 (.410) against teams with a winning record this season.

Tiebreakers: The Indians would yield the head-to-head tiebreaker to both the Rays and the A's, having lost those season series (6-1 to Tampa Bay, 5-1 to Oakland).

3. A's (94-62): two at LAA, four at SEA

The Wild Card leaders' soft schedule in the final week could be crucial not only for making the Wild Card Game, but also potentially locking up home-field advantage. The A's are two games up on the Rays and Indians in the Wild Card standings, and even though they finish their season with six games on the road, those games are against an Angels team without Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani and the cellar-dwelling Mariners. Oakland is a combined 20-12 against those two teams this year (12-5 vs. the Angels, 8-7 vs. Seattle).

Tiebreakers: The A's hold the best tiebreaker position of the three AL Wild Card contenders. They hold the tiebreaker over both the Rays (4-3 season series) and Indians (5-1 season series).

4. Twins (96-60): three at DET, three at KC

The Twins don't technically have a postseason spot locked up yet, but with a four-game lead over the Indians, they could clinch the AL Central in the next few days. And what better teams to lock up a division title against than the 100-loss Royals and the 109-loss, MLB-worst Tigers? The Twins are 22-9 against the two division bottom-feeders.

Tiebreaker: Should a game No. 163 be needed on Sept. 30 to determine the AL Central title, it would be at Cleveland. The Indians edged the Twins, 10-9, in the season series.


That leaves the two juggernauts jockeying for home-field advantage: the Yankees and Astros, who both enter the final week with 102 wins (the Astros, who clinched the AL West on Sunday, are a game up in the loss column, at 102-54 to the Yankees' 102-55). The Yankees have the tougher schedule, with series against the Rays and Rangers, while the Astros face the Mariners and the depleted Angels. Will that be enough to give Houston the edge?

Tiebreakers: The Astros also hold the tiebreaker over New York, thanks to winning the head-to-head season series, 4-3. Both the Astros and Yankees would hold the tiebreaker over the Dodgers for home-field advantage in the World Series if either finished with the same record as Los Angeles.


1. Nationals (85-69): five vs. PHI, three vs. CLE

The Nationals, in a virtual tie with the Brewers for the top NL Wild Card spot, don't have any easy opponents left. They're at home to close out the season, but if they want to hold onto a Wild Card spot, they'll have to go through a massive five-game series against the division-rival Phillies, who are a postseason long shot but not out of it yet, and then the Indians, who are in the thick of the AL Wild Card race and might need to beat the Nats to get in. Washington has had the upper hand against the Phils this season, with a 9-5 head-to-head mark, but Cleveland is a strong and unfamiliar foe -- the teams haven't faced off since 2016.

Tiebreakers: If the Nats tie the Brewers for the Wild Card, the Brewers hold the tiebreaker for home-field advantage, thanks to winning the season series, 4-2. Washington holds the tiebreaker against the Cubs, but not the Mets.

2. Cubs (82-74): three at PIT, three at STL

The Cubs just went through a brutal four-game sweep at the hands of the archrival Cardinals, losing all four games at Wrigley Field by one run, one in extra innings and two after blowing ninth-inning leads. That sweep clinched a playoff spot for St. Louis, and Chicago now faces an uphill battle to get to October. And guess who's lurking at the end of the season? Those three games in St. Louis could decide the Cubs' postseason fate -- but only if they can first take advantage of the fading Pirates, who have lost nine in a row and are 21-46 in the second half. The Cubs need those wins badly, as they're now four games out of a Wild Card slot.

Tiebreakers: Both the Brewers and Nationals hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Cubs if they end up with the same record.

3. Brewers (86-70): three at CIN, three at COL

The Brewers are on a roll, and their sweep of the Pirates this weekend, coupled with the Cardinals' sweep of the Cubs, has Milwaukee in Wild Card position entering the final week. The Brewers still need to stave off the Cubs and Mets, but they're four games up on Chicago and 4 1/2 on the Mets. Milwaukee’s six remaining games come against two sub-.500 teams in the Reds and Rockies. In fact, of the Brew Crew's final 20 regular-season games, only three were against winning teams -- a series against the Cardinals in which the Brewers took two of three. That can sure make a playoff push a lot smoother.

Tiebreakers: The Brewers hold tiebreakers over the Nationals, Cubs, Mets, D-backs and Phillies. The Cardinals hold the tiebreaker over the Brewers.

4. Mets (81-74): four vs. MIA, three vs. ATL

The Mets' roller-coaster season continues into the final week. They have no room left for error, and they'll need the Nats or Milwaukee to stumble badly, but ... well, ya gotta believe. First, the Mets need to take care of business in their four games against the last-place, 101-loss Marlins. If they can do that, it just might set up a high-stakes series against the division-champion Braves to close out the season at Citi Field.

Tiebreakers: If the Mets rallied to tie the Nationals, Brewers or Cubs for a Wild Card spot or play-in game, the only team they would hold a tiebreaker over is Washington.


The Cardinals had one of the toughest season-closing slates. But they just steamrolled through the latest section of the gauntlet with their four-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley. Now they're in. To take the NL Central, they need to go through the D-backs and Cubs, not the easiest thing to do. But the Cards look impressive right now. 

The Phillies and D-backs are also technically still in the race, but both are six games out of a Wild Card spot. The one thing the Phillies have going for them is the five-game series against Washington to open the week. If Philadelphia pulls off a crazy comeback and ends up tied with the Nats, the only way they'd hold the tiebreaker is if they swept that five-game set. The Brewers already hold their tiebreaker over the Phils.

As far as home-field advantage goes, the Dodgers have the edge over the Braves -- they just reached the 100-win mark and are 4 1/2 games ahead of Atlanta with just six games remaining against the sub-.500 Padres and Giants. The Dodgers also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Atlanta for home field through the NLCS, although the Astros and Yankees both hold the tiebreaker over them for home field in the World Series.