MLB playoff scenarios: What’s at stake Sunday with four NL teams fighting for two postseason spots


The 2020 Major League Baseball 60-game regular season is down to its final day. Just when it felt like things were getting started, the abbreviated season — a little more than a third of baseball’s usual 162-game slate — is nearing its end. But with the conclusion of one of the strangest seasons in history comes plenty of postseason drama. There are still two playoff spots up for grabs as we enter play Sunday, and playoff seeding is far from straightened out. 

So what are the different scenarios with one game remaining for most teams (the Cardinals and Tigers could be forced to play a doubleheader on Monday depending on Sunday’s results)? Let’s break it down.

If the season ended right now

Here’s what the postseason bracket currently looks like.

American League
No. 1 Rays vs. No. 8 Blue Jays
No. 2 Twins vs. No. 7 Cleveland
No. 3 A’s vs. No. 6 Astros
No. 4 White Sox vs. No. 5 Yankees

National League
No. 1 Dodgers vs. No. 8 Brewers
No. 2 Braves vs. No. 7 Reds
No. 3 Cubs vs. No. 6 Marlins
No. 4 Padres vs. No. 5 Cardinals

Sunday’s scenarios

Now onto what you need to know about the final day of the regular season. The MLB standings heading into Sunday’s 15-game schedule are tight, with four National League teams vying for the final two playoff spots. The St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies are candidates to fill out the National League field. 

Let’s take a look at all of the clinching scenarios for Sunday in the National League:

  • The winner of the Brewers-Cardinals game will receive a postseason berth.
  • The Giants can clinch a postseason berth if they beat the Padres, and the Brewers lose to the Cardinals.
  • If the Brewers lose to the Cardinals, they can still clinch a postseason spot if the Giants and Phillies lose.
  • If the Cardinals lose and the Giants win, St. Louis will be forced to play its previously canceled doubleheader against the Tigers on Monday. They hold the tiebreaker over the Giants by virtue of their superior intradivisional record.
  • The Phillies can clinch a postseason berth with a win over the Rays and if the Giants and Brewers both lose. They hold tiebreakers over the Brewers and Giants, so if the Phillies wind up tied at 29-31 for a playoff spot with one or both of those teams, then Philly makes it.

The top four NL seeds are already set, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres hosting the three-game Wild Card Round at their respective home ballparks.

Over in the American League, all eight teams are set, but the seeding won’t be finalized until the conclusion of Sunday’s games. Here’s what’s up for grabs on Sunday:

  • The Minnesota Twins will be able to clinch the AL Central with a win over the Reds or a White Sox loss to the Cubs.
  • The Chicago White Sox can clinch the AL Central with a win and a Twins loss. 
  • The Yankees can lock up the No. 5 seed up with a win or a Blue Jays loss.
  • Cleveland can clinch the No. 4 seed with a win over the Pirates and a White Sox loss

MLB has given itself only one day between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. As a result, the league will not have tiebreaker games. All ties will be decided mathematically, based on either head-to-head record, intradivisional record, and so on. If need be, MLB would eventually resort to teams’ divisional records in their last 20-plus games.

You can view the full schedule of Sunday’s games hereMLB’s 2020 postseason is set to begin on Tuesday. 





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