MLB Playoff Watch, AL edition: Seattle slipping, Cleveland catching fire


By Jordan Shusterman
FOX Sports MLB Writer

Are we finally looking at the 2022 American League playoff field?

This been a long season of moving and shaking in the standings, both in the wild-card and divisional races. There are still just over two weeks remaining in the regular season, but the American League postseason picture is coming into focus with the six teams currently holding postseason position looking awfully likely to be the ones ultimately playing past Oct. 5.

They play 162 games for a reason, though — there’s still time for those six teams to change. With that in mind, let’s check in on the nine AL teams that still have any hope left of reaching the postseason. 

(Note: “Last week” records include games from Sept. 12 to Sept. 18.)

HOUSTON ASTROS

Arrow pointing: Up

Overall: 97-51

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 29-14

Last week: 6-1

Playoff odds (via FanGraphs): 100%

The Astros just wrapped up their fifth AL West title in the last six seasons and are on pace to clear the 100-win mark for the fourth time during that span. They exist in their own tier in the AL and throughout baseball, are alongside only the Dodgers for their unflappable dominance and overwhelming tornado of talent.

Justin Verlander returned and didn’t look rusty at all, Framber Valdez has continued his historic streak of quality starts and Yordan Alvarez recently busted out of a mini-slump (at least, by his standards) with a monstrous three-home-run game. All is well in H-Town — now it’s just a matter of reaching the postseason as healthy as possible across the board.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Arrow pointing: Up

Overall: 88-58

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 18-24

Last week: 3-2

Playoff odds: 100%

For all the hoopla surrounding Aaron Judge’s historic season — deserved hoopla, of course — the most important development for the Yankees lately has been how much healthier they’ve gotten, and are about to get, down the stretch. Anthony Rizzo and Aroldis Chapman returned last week; Harrison Bader, Luis Severino and Scott Effross are all scheduled to return this week. Judge has been so ridiculously good that he has just about been able to carry the Yankees through the dog days on his own, but any hope for this team to make a deep postseason run will likely be determined by how much help Judge gets around him.

This first round of reinforcements is encouraging, and there’s hopefully more on the way: DJ LeMahieu, Zack Britton and Miguel Castro are all working their way back as well. Andrew Benintendi and Matt Carpenter could be options come postseason time. Judge will, and should, continue to get the headlines, but all of these returning pieces are a much bigger deal in the Yankees’ quest for ring No. 28.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Arrow pointing: Up

Overall: 83-64

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 26-19

Last week: 5-3

Playoff odds: 99.5%

Despite blowing a golden opportunity to sweep Baltimore by coughing up a ninth-inning lead on Sunday, Toronto does appear to be in the strongest position of the AL Wild Card bunch with the way they’ve been playing lately. Bo Bichette has been one of the best players in baseball for the last month and Ross Stripling has emerged as a truly dependable rotation option with six consecutive quality starts, bringing his season ERA under 3.00. They won three of the five at home against the Rays last week — if they can win the final series against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field this weekend, Toronto fans can start to get excited about hosting the three-game Wild Card Series. 

SEATTLE MARINERS

Arrow pointing: Neutral

Overall: 81-65

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 26-16

Last week: 1-4

Playoff odds: 99.5%

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Mariners’ vibes took a serious hit when the player whose entire mantra is Good Vibes Only — Eugenio Suarez — hit the IL with a broken right index finger. With rookie sensation Julio Rodriguez also missing some action over the weekend due to back spasms, Seattle’s offense in Anaheim looked as bleak as it has all season — until Carlos Santana and Ty France combined for all 9 RBI in Monday’s 9-1 win over the Angels to avoid the series sweep. Though the odds of breaking the drought still appear quite certain, other members of the Mariners lineup need to continue stepping up in Suarez’s absence to ensure they won’t be sweating out these last few weeks. Monday was a good start. 

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TAMPA BAY RAYS

Arrow pointing: Slightly up

Overall: 82-65

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 28-17

Last week: 4-4

Playoff odds: 97.2%

The recent returns of Wander Franco and Shane McClanahan from the IL injected some much-needed star power into a roster that continues to hang tough with both Toronto and Seattle in the AL Wild Card race. And how ‘bout Pete Fairbanks? After allowing runs in each of his first two outings of the season upon returning from the IL in mid-July, the hard-throwing righty has rattled off 19 consecutive scoreless outings with 30 strikeouts to just two walks over that span to boot. They’ll have the chance to flip the script on the Blue Jays this weekend at home and put themselves in position to host a Wild Card Series in the dark and gloomy but ridiculously loud confines of Tropicana Field.

CLEVELAND GUARDIANS

Arrow pointing: Up

Overall: 80-67

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 27-18

Last week: 6-2

Playoff odds: 89.8%

What a statement for Cleveland to take four of five from Minnesota this past weekend, effectively squashing any hopes for the Twins to catch them in the AL Central race. Now they head to Chicago with a similar chance to extinguish the White Sox’ attempts to catch them and put this division race to bed. And yet, I still am not sure what to make of this team’s overall chances at making a deep postseason run considering their lack of firepower offensively. In some ways I appreciate their style of play more in contrast to what the rest of the league looks like in 2022, but it’s just difficult to know how far it will take them. 

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Arrow pointing: Slightly up

Overall: 76-71

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 25-20

Last week: 4-2

Playoff odds: 12.6%

A welcome sight for White Sox fans: Yoan Moncada, one of several Sox hitters who has severely underwhelmed for much of the season, is hitting .352/.389/.585 over his last 12 games. Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez have been just about the only Sox hitters consistently delivering this season, particularly in Tim Anderson’s absence. If Moncada can stay this hot down the stretch, this lineup becomes a lot more difficult to handle. With Cleveland coming to town for a three-game series with a four-game lead, this will likely be the South Siders’ last chance to make up significant ground on their own in their quest to pull off an improbable division title.

Of course, it’s worth remembering that the White Sox were considerable favorites to win this division before the season began, so how much should we really be celebrating the fact that they are hanging on for dear life with two weeks to go? Still, they have to be feeling much better than the team they recently passed in the AL Central standings …

MINNESOTA TWINS

Arrow pointing: Down

Overall: 73-74

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 19-26

Last week: 4-3

Playoff odds: 0.4%

To put it simply: oof. A team that spent essentially all of May, June and July in first place might be in danger of finishing with a losing record and nowhere near a postseason spot. Injuries have certainly played a significant part in Minnesota’s downfall this year, but it was a fairly flawed roster to begin with, particularly when it came to the pitching staff. That’s not to say there aren’t pieces in place here for Minnesota to contend in 2023, but that could depend on whether shortstop Carlos Correa decides to opt out — which seems likely. This is now two seasons in a row that have gone completely sideways for the Twins in very different ways. A huge offseason looms for GM Derek Falvey’s front office. 

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Arrow pointing: Neutral

Overall: 76-70

Since Aug. 2 deadline: 24-19

Last week: 3-2

Playoff odds: 0.8%

It has been a valiant effort all season long for this group and the comeback on Sunday against the Blue Jays was yet another inspiring example of why this team will need to be taken seriously as soon as next season. It looks like they are going to come up just short this year, but a great chance at a winning season after being the worst team in baseball in 2021 is an undeniable success, especially when factoring in the bona-fide breakouts of core players like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.


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