The 2022 MLB season is in the sprint to the finish line. When you’re not watching Albert Pujols try to blast beyond 700 career homers, or Aaron Judge try to set the American League homer record ... or win the Triple Crown, it’s all about the playoff push. To keep you up to date on the rush toward the postseason, we’re laying out the playoff picture every day from now until Game 162 on Oct. 5, and highlighting games that might end up making the difference.
What does MLB’s playoff format look like in 2022?
First things first: You might remember that as part of the collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout, the team owners and players expanded the postseason. There are now six teams from each league, three division winners and three wild cards. That means a new path to the World Series, and different considerations for watching the races come down to the wire.
When each league’s field is set, it will go like this:
The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds — the two best division winners — get byes into the Division Series, a huge advantage. The other four teams square off in a new three-game wild-card series, replacing the one-game wild-card showdowns, that will be exclusively hosted at the better seed’s park.
The division winner with the worst record will be the No. 3 seed and host the No. 6 seed, the wild-card team with the worst record. The winner of that series will go on to face the No. 2 seed, regardless of which team comes out on top.
The two best wild cards, seeds Nos. 4 and 5, will play each other. The winner will advance to face the top seed.
From there, things will look familiar. The Division Series will be best of five. The league Championship Series and World Series will be best of seven, with the team holding the higher seed wielding home-field advantage by hosting Games 1, 2, 6 and 7.
There won’t be any Game 163 tiebreakers. Ties will be settled by the teams’ head-to-head record. If that is also a tie, the league would go through a procession of other in-season records to find a winner, starting with intradivision records.
How does the playoff picture stand now?
If the season were over and the playoffs started Monday morning, here’s how the standings would look when turned into the league brackets.
No. 1 seed: Houston Astros (AL West and top seed clinched)
No. 2 seed: New York Yankees (AL East and bye clinched)
Wild-card series: No. 3 Cleveland Guardians (AL Central clinched) vs. No. 6 Tampa Bay Rays (postseason berth clinched)
Wild-card series: No. 4 Toronto Blue Jays (postseason berth clinched) vs. No. 5 Seattle Mariners (postseason berth clinched)
No. 1 seed: Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West and top seed clinched)
No. 2 seed: Atlanta Braves (postseason berth clinched)
Wild-card series: No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central clinched) vs. No. 6 Philadelphia Phillies
Wild-card series: No. 4 New York Mets (postseason berth clinched) vs. No. 5 San Diego Padres (postseason berth clinched)
Still in the running: Milwaukee Brewers (2 game back of wild card)
What are the key races remaining?
With a decisive sweep of the Mets, the Braves are on the precipice of another late-running NL East crown. By wiping out New York in one of the season's most anticipated series, the Braves took control of the division in the standings and also the head-to-head tiebreaker. They now need just one win or one Mets loss to lock up the division title and the crucial No. 2 seed.
It's a similar picture in the NL wild-card race, the only in-or-out battle remaining. The Phillies picked up a game on the Brewers Sunday and are now one win or one Brewers loss from sewing up the final playoff spot in question.
What are Monday's important games?
Braves at Marlins, 6:40 ET: Fresh off that dominant sweep of the Mets, the Braves travel to Miami ready for a celebration. Rookie Bryce Elder, who fired a shutout last time out against the Nationals, will take the ball for Brian Snitker.
Phillies at Astros, 8:10 ET: Not an easy draw for the Phillies as they try to finally punch their ticket to October. The top-seeded Astros have little to play for this week, but they're not going to be easy for Philadelphia. Aaron Nola will get the start and try to end the suspense tonight.