With just one month before the end of the 2023 MLB regular season, time is running thin for playoff contenders. Four American League teams have a strong shot of making it to the postseason in October, so let’s take a look at how each are doing heading into October.
- Record (as of 8/29): 80-52
- Position in AL Wild Card: 1st (8.0 G ahead of Toronto)
Even though Tampa got off to an incredible start, the Rays have navigated season-ending injuries to Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, and Jeffrey Springs well enough. Tampa entered play on August 29 well ahead of Toronto and just two and a half games out of first in the AL East.
The Rays — who own the fifth-best ERA (3.87) and fourth-best team OPS (.778) — are five and a half games ahead of the Rangers and Astros, and should be in line to host a Wild Card round series.
- Record (as of 8/29): 74-57
- Position in AL Wild Card: 2nd (2.5 G ahead of Toronto)
The Texas Rangers spent most of the year in first of the AL West, but now find themselves in a weird place. The Mariners surged in August thanks to a 20-5 record, while Texas’ 25-24 record since July 1 was not enough to keep the Rangers in first place.
Texas has the bats — the Rangers have the AL’s best team OPS (.794) — and the two guns on the mound in Max Scherzer and Jon Gray that are necessary to take a Wild Card round. But, will the Rangers be able to get the juice needed from those pieces in September and October? Scherzer’s been great thus far, but he’ll be looking to avenge a difficult late-season run last year with the Mets.
- Record (as of 8/29): 75-58
- Position in AL Wild Card: 3rd (2.5 G ahead of Toronto)
The defending World Series champion Houston Astros are in a strange place — at least for themselves. The Astros have won the AL West five out of the last six seasons, the lone exception being in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. Houston sits at a strong 75-58 record and have went 30-21 since July 1, but both the ‘Stros and Rangers are not locks to make it to the playoffs by any means.
Between Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez, the Astros have the punch and the depth needed to win. But, the Astros rotation has been as sharp as compared to 2022. Justin Verlander has been sensational (2.79 ERA, 29 K over 29.0 IP) since his return to Houston, but Cristian Javier‘s rough season and Framber Valdez‘s poor second half (5.33 ERA, .760 opp. OPS over 50.2 IP) are causes for concern.
- Record (as of 8/29): 72-60
- Position in AL Wild Card: 4th (2.5 G out of playoff spot)
The Jays are not far out of a playoff spot, but a two and a half game deficit with a month left won’t be easy to make up — especially with Matt Chapman and Bo Bichette. But despite down seasons from Daulton Varsho and George Springer, Toronto is still twelve games above .500.
Much of that can be attributed to the Blue Jays’ depth on the mound. Even though Alek Manoah bottomed out on the mound, Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios have powered the Toronto rotation. Couple those two with Yusei Kikuchi and an elite bullpen, the Blue Jays own the league’s second-best ERA (3.71).
Right now, it’s won’t be easy for Toronto to take out one of the three powerhouses in a Wild Card spot. The Rays, Rangers, and Astros have the depth, talent, experience needed to hang on.
However, Toronto does have a soft stretch that includes games with the Nationals, Rockies, A’s and Royals in late August and early September before a critical four-game series against the Rangers. Toronto has the chance to make up ground, especially with Houston and Texas set to face each other in early September.
Note: In order to be eligible for this list, a team must either be in an AL Wild Card spot, or five games or fewer back of a playoff position.