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What You Need To Know: MLB Playoffs

Major League Baseball

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It took every day of Major League Baseball’s condensed 60-game schedule, but the postseason field is officially set in stone.

A total of 16 teams comprise the bracket, with players taking the diamond for the Wild Card series as soon as Tuesday. 

What do you need to know heading into the playoffs? Let’s get you up to speed.

Who’s in?

As mentioned, 16 teams made the playoffs this year rather than the usual 10 as a result of MLB and the Players Association agreeing to an expanded field prior to Opening Day.

In addition, the Wild Card series will be a best-of-three affair, a departure from the normal single-game format.

The eight American League representatives are, in order of seeding, the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.

Over in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers make up the bracket, in order of highest-to-lowest seed. 

Of note, the Brewers (29-31) and the Astros (29-30) are the first teams to make the postseason with sub-.500 records. 

Who are the favorites?

The Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost back-to-back World Series in 2017 and 2018 before losing to the eventual-champion Washington Nationals last year, are the heavy favorites at +350, according to FOX Bet’s insights.

Fellow NL West combatants San Diego check in at +900 following a busy stockpiling of talent at last month’s trade deadline. The Braves (+1100) and Cubs (+1500) are also among the favorites out of the NL.

In the AL, the fifth-seeded Yankees are the most dangerous team by FOX Bet’s insights at +650. The AL East champion Rays come in just behind their rivals at +700, with the A’s available at +1000. Menawhile, the Twins and White Sox are both being offered at +1400. 

Any injury concerns to be aware of?

Despite a shortened season, plenty of players are dinged up heading into the playoffs.

A few key contributors that have question marks surrounding them include Dodgers star Mookie Betts, starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet of the Padres, Braves slugger Ronald Acuna Jr., Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson and others.

While most of the aforementioned players are deemed day-to-day at the moment, they, along with a number of others, will likely have to tough it out during the postseason grind.

Others, like Marlins pitcher Jose Urena, will miss out on the playoffs altogether, unfortunately. 

Will there be a bubble?

Of sorts. The Wild Card games will be played at the home of the higher seed before MLB pivots to several neutral-site bubbles. 

That means starting Tuesday, the Rays, Indians, Twins and A’s will all host playoff games in the AL before heading to a bubble in California. The Dodgers, Padres, Cubs and Braves will also play their Wild Card games at home before switching venues to Texas.

For the AL, the two Divisional Series will be played in San Diego at Petco Park and in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium from Oct. 5-9. The NL will play in Texas at Globe Life Park in Arlington and Houston’s Minute Maid Park from Oct. 6-10.

From there, the ALCS will be held at Petco Park from Oct. 11-17, while Globe Life Park will host the NLCS from Oct. 12-18 and World Series starting on Oct. 20.

Will fans be allowed?

Despite most games taking place in a bubble, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is holding out hope that fans in be able to attend the series taking place in Texas.

Here’s Manfred to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

“We are pressing ahead to have fans in Texas. One of the most important things to our game is the presence of fans. Starting down the path of having fans in stadiums, and in a safe and risk-free environment, is very, very important to our game.”

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