The 2020 MLB playoffs are just over a week away, even though it seems like only yesterday that the regular season kicked off. The compressed 60-game schedule is rapidly coming to a close, and the MLB standings are tight heading to the finish, with wild-card positioning, postseason seeding and the rest of the playoff picture at stake.
As has been the case with so much this season, the playoffs will have a new look, with an expanded format that includes 16 teams for the first time in MLB history.
This will be the place to visit every day through the end of the regular season for updated looks at the potential playoff field, recaps of the biggest games, analysis of the most important storylines and previews of the critical games ahead.
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If the season ended today ...
Best-of-three series, higher seed is home team
No. 1 Rays* vs. No. 8 Blue Jays
No. 2 White Sox* vs. No. 7 Indians
No. 3 Athletics* vs. No. 6 Astros
No. 4 Yankees* vs. No. 5 Twins*
No. 1 Dodgers* vs. No. 8 Reds
No. 2 Cubs vs. No. 7 Phillies
No. 3 Braves vs. No. 6 Cardinals
No. 4 Padres* vs. No. 5 Marlins
*Clinched playoff spot
Magic numbers to clinch playoff spot
NL: Braves 3, Cubs 4, Marlins 6, Cardinals 7
AL: Indians 2, Astros 3, Blue Jays 4
Who is in?
The overwhelming preseason favorite was the first team to secure a spot in the postseason tournament, clinching a berth with Wednesday's win over the Padres. L.A. took two of three from San Diego, which sits in second place in the NL West.
What's next? The Dodgers, who hold the best record in baseball, are looking for their eighth consecutive NL West championship and the top seed in the league. Of course, the big prize for the Dodgers would be their first World Series title since 1988. This will be L.A.'s 14th playoff appearance since the Dodgers last won it all.
The White Sox clinched their first playoff berth since 2008 on Thursday. It will be the 10th postseason appearance in the history of the franchise, which dates to 1903.
What's next? Chicago is looking for the AL Central title and perhaps even the No. 1 overall seed in the AL field. After taking three of four from the Twins, the White Sox hold a three-game lead in the Central.
The Rays clinched the sixth postseason appearance in franchise history and their second in a row. Last year, Tampa Bay beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game and lost to Houston in the division series.
What's next? The Rays' next goal would be to win the AL East title. It would be their first division crown since 2010.
The A's punched their third straight postseason ticket with a win over the Giants on Friday night in Oakland.
What's next? The A's are on the verge of securing their first AL West crown since 2013 and also are still in the mix for one of the AL's top two playoff seeds.
A's must-read: Inside the A's dominance and how they plan to make it last
The Twins clinched their third postseason appearance in the past four seasons with their 8-1 win over the Cubs on Saturday. Last year, they were swept by the Yankees in the division series, extending their postseason losing streak to 16 straight since their last win back in Game 1 of the 2004 AL Division Series.
What's next? Catching the White Sox in the AL Central is probably out of reach, so the next goal would be snapping that postseason losing streak.
The Padres clinched their first postseason appearance since 2006 when they came back to beat the Mariners in extra innings 7-4 after fending off a no-hit bid.
What's next? Catching the Dodgers in the NL West in the last week of the season is unlikely, so maintaining their position as the top-seeded nondivision winner is their more likely near-term goal as they get ready to make good on their 2020 breakthrough.
Padres must-read: How Padres GM A.J. Preller decided to go for it
Although they took a beating in Boston on Sunday, the Yankees clinched a playoff spot when the Padres beat the Mariners.
What's next? With the Rays 3.5 games ahead in the AL East, the Yankees' most immediate goals are probably tied to lining up their rotation for October and getting their injury-wracked lineup prepped for the postseason.
Yankees must-read: Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has a HR problem
Who could clinch next?
• The Athletics can clinch the AL West title on Monday with an Astros loss to the Mariners.
About last night ...
Myers gives Padres lead with three-run blast
Wil Myers hits a three-run home run to center field to give San Diego a 3-1 lead vs. Seattle.
The Padres' 7-4 victory in the 11th inning over the Mariners on Sunday delivered a double dose of clinching, because they didn't just clinch their own return to October after a 14-year absence, that win also bumped in the team that beat them the last time San Diego reached the World Series -- the Yankees.
After initially getting no-hit by Mariners rookie Justin Dunn into the sixth inning, the Padres battled back in what became a seesaw game that saw them blow two late leads that could have put them into the postseason. But having already ramped up the drama, the Pads finally earned their postseason berth with a three-run breakout in the 11th inning. The Mariners' loss also put the Yankees into the AL's playoff field despite seeing New York's 12-game win streak against the Red Sox snapped by Boston's 10-2 blowout victory in Fenway Park.
Also of note: The Marlins enter their most consequential last week of the season since 2003 (when they won the World Series) after splitting a doubleheader with the Nationals on Sunday. The Fish have made the postseason only twice in franchise history, winning it all both times. ... Powered by Mariners castoff Daniel Vogelbach's two home runs, the Brewers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 5-3 win over the Royals, setting up last-week showdowns with Cincinnati and St. Louis. ... The Cardinals kept their lead over the Reds and Brewers with a 2-1 win over the Pirates while staff ace Jack Flaherty fanned 11. ... The Reds returned to .500 with a 7-3 victory.
Pennant race debate: Which one player are you most excited to see this postseason?
David Schoenfield: Shane Bieber. The Indians haven't won the World Series since 1948, and they are hardly the favorites to win the American League, but Bieber is the pitcher most likely to have a Madison Bumgarner-type 2014 run and carry an otherwise mediocre team to the title.
Joon Lee: Tim Anderson not only finds himself in the middle of a chase with DJ LeMahieu for his second straight batting title, but also for the American League MVP with Cleveland Indians hurler Shane Bieber and teammate Jose Abreu amid another career season during a pandemic. Anderson is the heart and soul of the insurgent White Sox, and the 27-year-old shortstop will be making the first playoff appearance of his career. When considering those circumstances, his penchant for bringing excitement and flair to the field and his dynamic bat at the top of the lineup on the South Side, Anderson figures to make a sizable impression with the eyes of baseball fans nationwide squarely focused on the young and exciting White Sox squad.
Sam Miller: Yu Darvish hasn't appeared in the postseason since his disastrous pair of starts in the 2017 World Series, and in the ensuing period he has changed teams, gotten hurt, been a bust, added yet another pitch, and once more become -- surprisingly, but not too surprisingly -- one of the world's five best starting pitchers. He's never had the control over his arsenal that he has now, and nobody is more of a threat to throw a no-hitter in any given start. He doesn't need to redeem himself for the 2017 World Series -- his career is so much more than those two starts -- but it'll be really satisfying to watch him play the ace this October.
Bradford Doolittle: In both 1997 (Livan Hernandez) and 2003 (Josh Beckett), the Marlins' championship runs were fueled by a hot, emergent pitcher. While I'm not predicting Miami will go on a title romp if it gets into the playoffs, Sixto Sanchez could be that kind of emergent pitcher for them this October. Both his traditional results and his Statcast metrics are elite, and he could be going up against a club that has never seen him before in the opener of a best-of-three series. And that opponent could end up being the Dodgers.
Alden Gonzalez: Sixto Sanchez -- because I don't think anybody has an answer for him at the moment.
Key games ahead
A's-Giants, Sunday (4 p.m. ET): Will the Giants' lead in a tight race for the NL's final playoff spot last through a tough three-game series with their Bay Area rivals?
Brewers-Reds, Monday (6:40 p.m. ET): With both Milwaukee and Cincinnati hovering around .500 and in the mix for either second place in the NL Central or a wild-card spot, their three-game series, which opens Monday, will have big-time playoff implications.
Yankees-Blue Jays, Tuesday (6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN): The Yankees, still within striking distance of the No. 1 seed in the AL, turn to Gerrit Cole in a potential first-round preview.
Cardinals-Royals, Wednesday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN2): St. Louis is fighting for a playoff spot, adding some extra juice to this Missouri matchup.