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MLB Betting Odds: Breaking Down the Wild Card Favorites As Season Hits Final Week

Even more exclusive playoff fields in Major League Baseball were not exempt from teams who advanced to the postseason by leaking oil as they sputtered across the finish line.

The 1987 Minnesota Twins won the American League West — and eventually the World Series — despite going 42-43 after June 30. The 1997 Houston Astros won the NL Central even though they were 25-29 after July 31. The Atlanta Braves extended their run of 14 consecutive division titles in 2001, when they were 28-28 after July 31.

The patron saints of mediocrity are the 2005 San Diego Padres and 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. The Padres were 49-61 after May 31 but won the NL West with an 82-80 record. (Then they got swept in the NLDS, meaning the Padres actually finished under .500) The Cardinals were 25-31 after July 31 (tied for the third-worst record in the NL) and 12-17 after Aug. 31 (tied for the second-worst mark in the NL) but squeaked into the playoffs by winning the NL Central with an 83-78 record before winning the World Series.

But the bigger the postseason tournament, the more likely there will be teams that enter the playoffs despite extended late-season fades. And there’s no shortage of wheezing contenders as the final week of the campaign kicks off in earnest tonight.

Here’s a look at the teams vying for the remaining playoff berths and their odds of qualifying per DraftKings as of Sept. 26.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

The AL East and AL West technically remain up for grabs, but the AL East’s Baltimore Orioles (97-59) and Tampa Bay Rays (95-62) have already locked up playoff spots while the Orioles and Texas Rangers (88-68) — who have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Houston Astros (86-71) in the West — are likely to earn the two first-round byes. 

Thus, the suspense lies mostly in a three-way derby for the two wild card spots. 

2.) Toronto Blue Jays 87-69 (+ 2 1/2 games clear of fourth place, -10000)

3.) Houston Astros 86-71 (+ 1 1/2 games clear of fourth place, -250)

4.) Seattle Mariners 84-72 (+170)

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It’s been clear for weeks that a playoff-caliber team was going to be squeezed out in the AL.

The Blue Jays, who have been at least 10 games over .500 every day but one since the MLB All-Star Break were 1 1/2 games out of a spot as recently as 12 days ago but have gone 7-2 since then to leapfrog the Astros and Mariners, who have each gone 3-7 in that span. Toronto finishes with six games against the New York Yankees, who are trying to avoid their first losing season since 1992, and the Rays, who may be in resting mode by the weekend.

Houston, the defending World Series champions, somehow lost five or six to the Kansas City Royals, who somehow managed to reach 100 losses before the tanking Oakland Athletics. The Astros earned a much-needed 5-1 win over the Mariners in the opener of a three-game series on Monday night, but they’ll likely face another desperate team over the weekend when they visit the Arizona Diamondbacks (three derisive cheers for Major League Baseball’s terrible scheduling)

Seattle at least sandwiched a three-game sweep of the Athletics around three-game sweeps at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Rangers, but any margin for error mostly disappeared with last night’s loss. The Mariners end the season with five games against the Astros and Rangers, so they somewhat control their own destiny and could benefit if Texas clinches the division and rests key players over the weekend.

But after being outscored 40-20 by the Dodgers, Rangers and Astros since Sept. 15, it’s hard to see Seattle — who looked like a World Series contender while winning a franchise-record 21 games in August — making it to next week.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

The Milwaukee Brewers (88-68) haven’t officially clinched the Central but with a six-game lead over the Chicago Cubs (82-74) with six to play, we’re just going to assume the Brewers will win the division and be the no. 3 seed behind the NL East-winning Atlanta Braves and the NL West-winning Dodgers, both of whom punched their playoff tickets sometime around Valentine’s Day.

The wild card race, for better and worse, remains the hottest of hot messes.

2.) Arizona Diamondbacks 82-74 (+1 game clear of fourth place, -450)

3.) Chicago Cubs 82-74 (+1 game clear of fourth place, -130)

4.) Miami Marlins 81-75 (1 GB, -150)

5.) Cincinnati Reds 80-77 (2 1/2 GB, +1200)

6.) San Francisco Giants 78-79 (4 1/2 GB, no odds)

7.) San Diego Padres 77-80 (5 1/2 GB, no odds)

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Here’s a shoutout to the Padres, our collective spirit animal. Let he who has not frantically tried to make up for months of inactivity with one furious sprint cast the first stone. Alas, with one more loss or one more win by the Diamondbacks or Cubs, San Diego — which has the best record in baseball at 15-7 since Sept. 1 — will be left to wonder how a superstar-laden team with a run differential approaching plus-100 missed the playoffs.

It’s little consolation to the Padres, but at least most of the teams ahead of them are surface-level decent this month. The Marlins are 14-8 while the Diamondbacks are 13-9 and the Reds (11-11) and Cubs (11-12) are each at or around .500. (The Giants, at 8-15, are a half-game better than the Colorado Rockies, so that’s all we’re going to say about the Giants)

Of course, this month of competence comes after far lengthier stretches of…well, let’s just call it mediocrity for everyone aside from the Cubs, who are 44-32 since June 30 and 29-21 since July 31. The Diamondbacks and Marlins are each 33-40 since June 30 and just above or below .500 — 25-24 for Arizona, 24-25 for Miami — since Aug. 31. The Reds are 36-39 since June 30 and 21-28 since July 31.

And September hasn’t been as sturdy as it seems for the four legitimate contenders. The Diamondbacks and Marlins are a combined 13-10 since Sept. 11 — and somehow 3-7 against the Mets and Yankees as they complete New York’s most depressing baseball summer in more than 30 years. The Cubs are 4-6 in their last 10 games, but only after sweeping the woebegone Rockies over the weekend. The Reds lost four straight last week, a stretch capped with a 13-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in which Cincinnati blew a 9-0 lead.

The picture gets no less foggy when looking ahead over the final week. The Diamondbacks are done no favors by a bizarre schedule — they took TWO trips this month to Chicago and New York — that ends with hosting the Astros after Thursday’s getaway game against the White Sox. The Marlins get six games against the Mets and Pirates playing out the string, but baseball gets even weirder at this time of year.

The Cubs have the toughest schedule with road games at the Braves and Brewers, but both teams are already in playoff prep mode. The Reds are heading to Cleveland for Terry Francona’s final week as a manager, so the Guardians are a prime candidate to play spoiler before Cincinnati even heads to the last-place Cardinals looking to do the same thing after their worst season in generations.

Alas, someone has to win this, it’s in the rule book. So let’s go with the Cubs and Marlins. And let’s hope tiebreakers don’t have to get involved.

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