MLB postseason picture: Updated playoff bracket, standings, key matchups for Braves, Yankees and Blue Jays

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 No. 4 and No. 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 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 this morning, here’s how the standings would look when turned into the league brackets.

American League

No. 1 seed: Houston Astros (AL West clinched)

No. 2 seed: New York Yankees (postseason berth clinched)

Wild card series: No. 3 Cleveland Guardians (AL Central clinched) vs. No. 6 Seattle Mariners

Wild card series: No. 4 Toronto Blue Jays vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Rays

Still in the running: Baltimore Orioles (4 games back of wild card), Chicago White Sox (7.5 games back of wild card), Minnesota Twins (9.5 games back of wild card)

National League

No. 1 seed: Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West and top seed clinched)

No. 2 seed: New York Mets (postseason berth clinched)

Wild card series: No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals vs. No. 6 Philadelphia Phillies

Wild card series: No. 4 Atlanta Braves (postseason berth clinched) vs. No. 5 San Diego Padres

Still in the running: Milwaukee Brewers (1.5 games back of wild card, 6.5 games back of NL Central), San Francisco Giants (8.5 games back of wild card)

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays host Aaron Judge and the Yankees for a key series starting Monday. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays host Aaron Judge and the Yankees for a key series starting Monday. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

What are the key races remaining?

The most important race is for the NL East crown. The Mets and Braves are barreling toward a weekend series that could decide the division and the No. 2 seed, which comes with that important bye into the Division Series.

Most of the rest of the intrigue lies in the NL, too. The Brewers are the only team currently outside the playoff picture with better than a 1% chance of getting into it. FanGraphs places their odds at 20.3%, and gives the Phillies the lowest odds (86.9%) of any team currently in the field.

In the AL, the jostling is for positioning. The AL wild-card seeding could flip around several times before season’s end, with the Blue Jays holding a two-game edge for the No. 4 seed going into a series against the division-leading Yankees.

What are today’s important games?

The Yankees and Blue Jays face off in Toronto. The Blue Jays are technically not eliminated in the AL East race, but they are realistically playing to stay two steps ahead of the Rays and Mariners. (And to avoid giving up Aaron Judge’s historic 61st home run.)

Elsewhere, the Braves get a game against the lowly Washington Nationals. Every day feels like a must win in this Mets-Braves duel, as Atlanta is currently 1.5 games back of New York with a three-game set coming up Friday. The Braves are 12-4 against Washington this year.