AL West title, playoff seeds, saying goodbye: What to watch on MLB's final day of season

A Saturday night sequence that resulted in five teams clinching playoff berths in a span of roughly an hour removed most of the tension from Major League Baseball's final day of the regular season.

But Game No. 162 will still have great significance for a handful of teams and individuals.

Most notably, the American League West division title will be decided between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, who have largely exchanged the division lead most of the second half, but for now is right where it started – with the Rangers. And there's still one outstanding bit of seeding to be determined in the National League.

A look at what to watch for on baseball's final day of the championship season:

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Texas Rangers players celebrate after clinching a postseason berth against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park in Seattle on Sept. 30, 2023.
Texas Rangers players celebrate after clinching a postseason berth against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park in Seattle on Sept. 30, 2023.

AL West: Rangers or Astros?

The Rangers (90-71) are in a spot quite familiar to them this year: In control of their destiny.

Texas has held first place for 159 days this season and can wrap up its first AL West title since 2016 with one more victory over the Seattle Mariners. With the stakes high – the division winner avoids the wild-card round and advances straight to the AL Division Series – the Rangers are starting right-hander Dane Dunning on short rest. The Mariners' scheduled starter is George Kirby, though with nothing to play for, those plans could change or be truncated.

Texas would also win the division title if the Astros lose at Arizona.

Houston, meanwhile, can be the No. 2, No. 5 or No. 6 seed by sundown Sunday. The Astros (89-72) need a win at Arizona and a Rangers loss in Seattle to clinch their sixth consecutive full-season AL West title and the AL No. 2 seed. As it is, the Astros are in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year and eighth time in nine years.

If Houston and Texas win and the Toronto Blue Jays (89-72) lose, the Astros move up to the No. 5 seed and will open the wild-card round at Tampa Bay. An Astros loss will lock them in the No. 6 slot and they will open the playoffs at the AL Central division champion Minnesota Twins.

One thing is for certain: The Twins and Rays will host best-of-three wild-card series beginning Tuesday. We'll find out who their opponents are today.

Oh, and let's not forget that all games start today around 3 ET, World Cup knockout round-style.

NL wild cards: Brewers, Phillies await opponents

Not only did the Marlins clinch their first full-season playoff berth since 2003 on Saturday, they also clawed all the way up to the No. 5 seed, at least for the moment.

Miami (84-76) has a half-game edge over Arizona (84-77) and can lock in the No. 5 seed with a win at Pittsburgh or a Diamondbacks loss to Houston. But if the Marlins lose and the Diamondbacks win?

The Marlins have a suspended game with the Mets outstanding at Citi Field; Miami took a 2-1 lead before the rains came with two outs in the top of the ninth. MLB has reportedly opted not to make up the game; Saturday's developments mean the game won't impact the playoff field.

It's also debatable which path - the No. 5 or No. 6 seed - is more desirable, anyway. The No. 6 seed will play at the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers, with the winner facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. The No. 5 seed opens at Philadelphia, with the 104-win Atlanta Braves lurking in the NL Division Series.

Miguel Cabrera: Time to say goodbye

There's certainly a lot of players who will play the final games of their careers on Sunday; some just may not know it, yet.

Miguel Cabrera has known about this for a while.

The Detroit Tigers slugger and future Hall of Famer will wind down his storied career with a Sunday game against the Cleveland Guardians. He'll face Lucas Giolito with one more chance to add to the numbers on his baseball card/Baseball-Reference page.

Saturday, Cabrera was honored in a pregame ceremony, then hit his third double in two days and his 103rd career sacrifice fly – tied for 25th all time.

Sunday, he'll try to embellish these totals: 3,174 hits, 511 home runs, 1,881 RBIs, a .307 batting average. Oh, his OPS is an even .900. (Wonder if he'll sit on that? Kidding).

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB's final day of regular season: Plenty of tension remains