Phillies deliver blow to Mets’ October hopes, plus current postseason bracket

The 2020 MLB playoffs are less than two weeks 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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Current playoff field | The big story | Playoff debates | Key games ahead

Key links: MLB standings | Predictions | Stock watch | Awards watch


If the season ended today …

The matchups: Here’s what the first round of the expanded playoffs would look like, based on the standings entering play Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Best-of-three series, higher seed is home team

AMERICAN LEAGUE
No. 1 White Sox vs. No. 8 Indians
No. 2 Rays vs. No. 7 Blue Jays
No. 3 Athletics vs. No. 6 Astros
No. 4 Twins vs. No. 5 Yankees

NATIONAL LEAGUE
No. 1 Dodgers vs. No. 8 Giants
No. 2 Cubs vs. No. 7 Phillies
No. 3 Braves vs. No. 6 Cardinals
No. 4 Padres vs. No. 5 Marlins

Magic numbers to clinch playoff spot

NL: Dodgers 2, Padres 4, Braves 7, Cubs 7, Marlins 12, Phillies 12, Giants 13, Cardinals 15

AL: White Sox 2, Rays 4, Twins 5, A’s 5, Yankees 8, Blue Jays 9, Indians 9, Astros 10


About last night …

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Didi Gregorius homers to deep right field and Philadelphia extends their lead by two.

It’s time to stick a fork in Flushing’s finest. A new owner is apparently on the way in Steve Cohen, but before he can infuse his billions of dollars into the franchise, the New York Mets appear intent on spending their final days under the Wilpons being the Mets. In 2020, that means not hitting with runners in scoring position. In Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets managed to turn 11 hits, two walks, two hit batters and a wild pitch into one run — Brandon Nimmo‘s solo home run. They went 0-for-6 with RISP and stranded 12 runners.

The Mets lead the majors in batting average (.279), on-base percentage (.354) and are second behind the Braves in wOBA. Based on their raw numbers, they should be averaging about 5.6 runs per game; instead, they’re averaging 4.9. That’s because they’ve hit so poorly with runners in scoring position, ranking 25th in the majors wOBA. They’ve done a great job of getting runners on base and a lousy job of driving them in. That’s the kind of thing that usually corrects itself over 162 games, but now explains why the Mets are 21-27 instead of 27-21.

With 12 games left, the Mets are just 2.5 games behind the Giants for the eighth seed, but they have four teams to climb over (and the Phillies are just a game ahead of the Giants, another reason the Mets needed this game). Of course, the starting pitching is a problem and will have to be the focus of the team’s plans in the offseason. Veterans Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha were brought in for rotation depth, both coming off poor 2019 seasons, and that hasn’t worked out as Porcello is now 1-5 with a 6.06 ERA after dropping Tuesday’s game.

As for the Phillies, it will be interesting to see where they get their offense in their final 13 games with Rhys Hoskins injured and Bryce Harper in a big-time slump (he went 0-for-4 on Tuesday). Didi Gregorius had the big hit off Porcello, a two-run homer in the fifth, and Adam Haseley had a two-out, two-run single in the fourth. (Interesting move by manager Joe Girardi to go to the bench so early, but with the bases loaded he wanted the lefty facing Porcello.)

The Phillies will also have to deal with an apparent injury to Jake Arrieta. On his final pitch of the night, he grabbed the back of his right hamstring and limped off the field. Zack Wheeler missed his last start because of an injured nail on his right middle finger and Spencer Howard is on the 10-day IL, so the Phillies’ rotation has some big issues if Wheeler can’t make his start and Arrieta’s injury proves serious. That could mean more innings for the bullpen — and for the Phillies, that’s not a good thing. — David Schoenfield

Also of note: Welcome back, Giancarlo Stanton. OK, the big guy went 0-for-4 after missing 32 games but maybe his return inspired the Yankees to a 20-6 victory over the Blue Jays as they pounded six home runs (two from Luke Voit, giving him the major league lead with 18). … The Brewers, who hit .139 over their previous five games, pounded Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty for nine runs in three innings on their way to an 18-3 victory. Dan Vogelbach went 3-for-4 with his first Brewers home run. The teams also had a strange benches-clearing incident after Ryan Braun hit Yadier Molina‘s wrist on a catcher’s interference swing. Braun and Molina had exchanged words a couple of pitches earlier over a strike call, and as Molina tended his injury, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt had words with the Brewers dugout and the benches emptied. … By the way, before that five-game slump, the Brewers had won a game 19-0. Does it feel as if we’ve seen more monster blowouts game than usual? We have. There have been 19 wins by 12-plus runs, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, the most through 50 team games since 1891. There have been five runs by 15-plus runs, the most through 50 games since 1955.

The White Sox continue to roll, beating the Twins 6-2 behind Dane Dunning‘s seven innings and Tim Anderson‘s second straight three-hit game. In fact, he’s 12-for-19 his past four games, raising his average from .343 to .377. Another secret ingredient for the Sox: backup catcher James McCann, who homered and doubled. White Sox catchers are hitting .300/.399/.535 with 11 home runs, 31 RBIs and 33 runs. … The Reds won their fourth in a row, 4-1 over the Pirates, as Michael Lorenzen made his first start and gave up one run in five innings. … The Dodgers bounced back from Monday’s loss with a 3-1 win over the Padres with Tony Gonsolin stifling San Diego’s offense for seven innings.


Pennant race debate: Which unexpected contender is the biggest surprise, and which is the best bet to get past the first round?

Joon Lee: The emergence of the Orioles as playoff contenders definitely surprised me most, as I expected them to finish in last place in the AL East. Between Anthony Santander and Pedro Severino, the team has had some bright spots this season in terms of continuity from last year. But among the surprise playoff contenders, I expect the San Francisco Giants to have the strongest chance to make it to the second round. This team has had its share of surprises this year, between Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano emerging as key offensive cogs, but the relatively young Giants have a bevy of veterans with postseason experience, including Johnny Cueto, Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria, who could help San Francisco pull off a first-round upset in what has already been a chaotic season.

David Schoenfield: I’ll go with the Orioles as the biggest surprise. Coming off a 108-loss season that featured one of the worst pitching staffs of all time and a record number of home runs allowed, Baltimore basically did nothing in the offseason to supplement the roster. In fact, the Orioles’ biggest move was trading their best position player, Jonathan Villar, to dump his salary. But the O’s have played respectable baseball and somehow hung close to the eighth playoff seed. The Giants are the best bet to advance, however, thanks to a very good offense. There’s a little bit of 2010 in this team. That year, Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres were the two best players (by WAR). This year, it’s Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano.

Bradford Doolittle: The Giants seem like the best bet to get into the playoffs, which makes them the most likely to win two games in a first-round best-of-three. If the Marlins can sneak in, however, they seem like the best bet to pull off an upset (if there is such a thing in a best-of-three). That’s especially true if they don’t match up against another team from the NL East, as they’d be able to throw out some dynamic young arms the opponent will not have seen much, if at all. The Orioles rate as the biggest surprise. I actually thought the Tigers would be a bit worse, but I also thought Detroit’s Central-only schedule would be considerably weaker, boosting them over the O’s in the standings. Baltimore might be in the process of being knocked down by its slate right now, but the Orioles done a great job of hanging in so far.

Dan Mullen: The Orioles and Tigers aren’t going to catch the Yankees now, so we can rule them out, leaving a choice between the Giants and the Marlins. Here’s why I’m taking Miami: Even year or not, if the Giants beat the Rockies for that final spot (San Francisco and Colorado have four games left against each other), they’re looking at a No. 8 seed and a first-round date with the Dodgers. I know this is a short series and anything can happen, but L.A. is the best team in baseball by a pretty large margin, and beating the Dodgers in any series is unlikely.

Miami, on the other hand, is currently the No. 5 seed and could finish anywhere between there and the No. 7 spot, based on how the Marlins, Phillies and Cardinals end the season. In a very only-in-2020 thing, finishing in the No. 5 spot would be the worst-case scenario here, as it would mean playing the Padres, while getting in as the No. 6 or No. 7 could set up a winnable chance at a Braves team with major starting pitching issues.


Key games ahead

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Dodgers-Padres, Wednesday (4 p.m. ET on ESPN): Both teams in this growing rivalry will be in the playoff field, so this could this be an NLCS preview. Too bad the San Diego fans can’t see this one in person.

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Cardinals-Brewers, Wednesday doubleheader (5:10 p.m. ET): The teams, both in the hunt for second place in the NL Central and/or a wild-card spot, play their second doubleheader in five days.

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Mets-Phillies, Wednesday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN): The Mets are trying to stay in the playoff hunt, and the Phillies look to secure their spot in the tournament.