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MLB Pennant Race 2023: The Junior Circuit's 1st Spots are Clinched

The Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays both left their head-to-head game as members of the 2023 Postseason

By Clyde E. DawkinsPublished 11 days ago 5 min read

I can't believe it. I truly can't believe it. With Sunday's matchups done, the 2023 MLB season has just two weeks left. It shows that even a season as long and grueling as baseball can fly by at the drop of a hat; it seemed like yesterday that the season started. This week saw the Braves and Dodgers lock in their divisions, but it also saw two more teams join the postseason party.

Orioles and Rays Clinch

The Orioles clinched their first postseason appearance since 2016

Sunday's action began with the Baltimore Orioles wrapping up their weekend set with the Tampa Bay Rays; a pivotal series, as both teams are neck and neck for the American League East crown. However, a funny thing happened during this game--they both clinched postseason berths. How did this happen? Both teams have the Cleveland Guardians to thank, as they defeated the Texas Rangers, 9-2, and that game was completed while the Rays/O's game was in the ninth inning. So thanks to the Rangers' loss, both Baltimore and Tampa Bay clinched postseason berths, the first American League teams to do so this season.

The Orioles went on to win, 5-4, in 11 innings, and for them, this was years in the making. Baltimore had been suffering ever since that heartbreaking Wild Card Game loss in 2016, as they had been the AL East's doormat ever since that defeat. This, sadly, includes three instances where they lost 100+ games, and most of that was due to Chris Davis' anchor of a contract holding them down. The O's stripped the team bare bit by bit, and as we recall, 2022 saw them with a winning record and in playoff contention until very late in the season. Many thought the 83-79 season would be a fluke. This year killed those thoughts. The O's win was their 93rd of the season. They haven't won 90+ games since 2014. It's a different team, different group of players, but the Orioles are back.

The Rays clinched their fifth straight postseason appearance

As for the Rays, well, they've done this whole October thing before. While they did lose the game to Baltimore, the Rangers loss placed the Rays in the postseason for the fifth straight season. The streak started in 2019, which saw Tampa Bay ousted by the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series. Of course, we remember 2020 as their big year, as they reached the World Series for the second time in franchise history, only to be defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The last two seasons haven't been kind to the Rays: an ALDS loss to the Boston Red Sox in 2021, and 2022 saw them swept and completely shut out by the Cleveland Guardians in the AL Wild Card Series. The Rays are looking to avenge that defeat and go a few steps further this year. Much like the Orioles, they have the talent to go very far.

What's Next for Both: The Orioles and Rays are done with each other in the regular season. As of this writing, the Orioles lead the AL East by two games over the Rays, and Baltimore won the season series, which is the first tiebreaker. In addition, both clubs are vying for the top record in the entire American League, as they have the two best records. The Orioles' magic number to clinch the AL East is 10.

Playoff-Bound Already?!

It's been seven years since the Chicago Cubs ended their long suffering and won the World Series, but since then, while the postseason appearances have come, that magic has disappeared. It wasn't until 2021 that the Cubs finally decided to tear it down by getting rid of the last remnants of that 2016 championship: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez. Seriously, why do Chicago teams take forever to realize that they have to just tear it down? Anyway, one thing I know about rebuilding processes is that it takes a lot of years, and I mean a lot of years. Yet during the 2022 offseason, the Cubs decided to start buying, which shocked me. The bigger shock was who they got: Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger.

Swanson and Bellinger spent back-to-back years battling each other for the pennant; Swanson was from the Braves, while Bellinger was from the Dodgers. Yet here they are together on Chicago's North Side. Even crazier...the Cubs are doing well. The Cubs have been dancing around the NL Central's second place slot for a good bit, and have been above the playoff line more often than not. As I say that, however, their loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks has actually pushed the Cubs behind that playoff line via tiebreaker, as they are tied with the Miami Marlins. Remember: there's no more Game 163. Head-to-head is the #1 tiebreaker, and Miami won the season series over Chicago. The NL Wild Card race has been a tight logjam for weeks; the Philadelphia Phillies have stayed a bit ahead for the #1 Wild Card spot (which is a home field position), but below them: Arizona, Miami, Chicago, the Cincinnati Reds, and even the San Francisco Giants all separated by very little in that race.

What's Next: The Cubs have four three-game sets left, but none of them are against any of the teams in that logjam. They are at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Colorado Rockies, but their season ends with road series against the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Two weeks remain, and the postseason field is 1/3 filled, with two divisions clinched. Even so, no seeds are set, though it looks like a foregone conclusion that the winners of both Central Divisions will be the #3 seed in their respective leagues and host a Wild Card Series. The final two weeks should be quite thrilling, and I am here for all of it!

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About the Creator

Clyde E. Dawkins

I am an avid fan of sports and wrestling, and I've been a fan of female villains since the age of eight. Also into film and TV, especially Simpsons and Family Guy.

Feel free to follow my social media:

Twitter - Facebook - Tiktok - Instagram

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  • Joe Patterson11 days ago

    Great job Clyde. Love your dedication to the world of sports.

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