Wondering which teams will be playing in the 2021 MLB playoffs heading into the final days of the regular season? Well, we’re about to find out.
With the final stretch of the season in full swing, teams are getting ready to clinch postseason berths — whether it’s a division crown and a straight ride to the division series, or one of two wild-card spots to face single-game elimination play. Either way, pride — and home-field advantage — is at stake.
While most teams have their divisions locked down, the American League wild-card race is wide open and will likely come down to the final weekend of the regular season, which ends Sunday. Or we could have some bonus baseball on Monday if there are tiebreakers to be played heading into the postseason.
Below, we take a look at the latest in the playoff races in both the American League and National League, starting with who has clinched a postseason spot, who can clinch next and upcoming series to watch. (Check back each day as we continue to update the playoff picture.)
Key links: Full MLB standings with playoff odds | Wild-card standings | Guide to the final week (ESPN+)
AL wild-card standings and scenarios
With four days left in the regular season, there are still four teams vying for the two American League spots. Here is where things stand and what is next for each of the contenders.
Boston Red Sox: 91-70 (current WC 1)
New York Yankees: 91-70 (current WC 2)
Seattle Mariners: 89-71 (1.5 games behind Boston)
Toronto Blue Jays: 90-71 (1 game behind Boston and New York)
The state of each contender
Yankees (1 vs. Tampa Bay): New York’s back-to-back losses against Tampa Bay have tightened the AL wild-card race. The Yankees can still clinch a playoff berth with a win, but it’ll have to be combined with a Red Sox loss to host the wild-card game.
Playoff odds (according to FanGraphs): 84.8%
Red Sox (1 at Washington): Boston controls its own destiny as the team prepares for Game 162. The Red Sox own the tiebreaker over New York and can earn the top wild-card spot with a win on Sunday.
Playoff odds: 78.1%
Mariners (2 vs. Angels): Seattle carried a four-game winning streak into a three-game series versus the Angels at home, but fell short of victory in Friday’s 2-1 loss.
Playoff odds: 8.3%
Blue Jays (1 vs. Baltimore): Toronto became the fourth AL East team to reach 90 wins with a decisive 10-1 victory over Baltimore. It is only the second time since 1969 that there are four 90-win teams in a single division.
Playoff odds: 28.8%
Jeff Passan provided a full breakdown of the final-week tiebreaker scenarios. Simply put:
+ If two teams finish with the two best records with no ties, they will meet Tuesday at the first wild-card team’s ballpark.
+ If two teams finish tied atop the wild-card standings, the team with the best head-to-head record will host Tuesday’s wild-card game.
+ If three or more teams (yes, a four-team tie is still in play) finish 162 games with the same record, there will be tiebreaker games played starting Monday to determine who faces off in the wild-card matchup.
Who has already clinched a playoff spot?
Baseball’s two best teams are officially in. The San Francisco Giants clinched at least a wild-card spot with a 9-1 win over the Padres on Sept. 13. The Giants are still locked in a battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the National League West, but the teams with the top two records in Major League Baseball so far this season are both assured a playoff spot, as the Dodgers clinched their own berth with an 8-4 win over the D-backs the next day. The only question: Which team will go straight to the division series and which one will face a wild-card elimination game?
The Milwaukee Brewers clinched at least a wild-card spot with a 6-4 win over the Cubs on Sept. 18. They then locked down the NL Central title with an 8-4 win over the Mets on Sept. 26.
The Tampa Bay Rays clinched their third straight playoff spot with a 7-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 22. Tampa Bay later clinched the AL East crown with a 7-3 win over the Marlins on Sept. 25 and holds the AL’s best record.
The Chicago White Sox clinched the AL Central — becoming the first team to win a division title in 2021 — with a 7-2 win in Cleveland in the opening game of a Sept. 23 doubleheader.
St. Louis’ 17th straight win — a 6-2 victory against Milwaukee on Sept. 28 — secured the team’s third straight playoff appearance. The Cardinals’ winning streak — which was finally snapped Wednesday night in a 4-0 loss to the Brewers — was the longest by a National League team since the 1935 Cubs won 21 straight.
The Atlanta Braves clinched their fourth straight NL East title with a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 30. They spent 126 days without a winning record, the fourth-most by a division winner since 1969, and the most since the 1989 Blue Jays.
The Houston Astros clinched the AL West to extend their franchise record of five consecutive playoff appearances with a 3-2 win over the Rays on Sept. 30.
If the season ended today …
Here’s what the playoff field would look like if the season ended today (tiebreakers excluded):
East champ: Tampa Bay Rays x
Central champ: Chicago White Sox x
West champ: Houston Astros x
First wild card: New York Yankees
Second wild card: Boston Red Sox/Seattle Mariners
East champ: Atlanta Braves x
Central champ: Milwaukee Brewers x
West champ: San Francisco Giants z
First wild card: Los Angeles Dodgers z
Second wild card: St. Louis Cardinals y
x – clinched division title
y – clinched wild card
z – clinched playoff berth
Wild-card round (single-game elimination)
Division series (best of five)
ALDS A & B
Game 1: Thursday
Game 2: Friday
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 10
Game 4: Monday, Oct. 11*
Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 13*
NLDS A & B
Game 1: Friday
Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 9
Game 3: Monday, Oct. 11
Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 12*
Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 14*
Championship series (best of seven)
Game 1: Friday, Oct. 15
Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 16
Game 3: Monday, Oct. 18
Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 19
Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 20*
Game 6: Friday, Oct. 22*
Game 7: Saturday, Oct. 23*
Game 1: Saturday, Oct. 16
Game 2: Sunday, Oct. 17
Game 3: Tuesday, Oct. 19
Game 4: Wednesday, Oct. 20
Game 5: Thursday, Oct. 21*
Game 6: Saturday, Oct. 23*
Game 7: Sunday, Oct. 24*
World Series (best of seven)
Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 26
Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 27
Game 3: Friday, Oct. 29
Game 4: Saturday, Oct. 30
Game 5: Sunday, Oct. 31*
Game 6: Tuesday, Nov. 2*
Game 7: Wednesday, Nov. 3*
* If necessary