Coming into Friday night's action, 11 of the 16 spots in Major League Baseball's expanded postseason had already been claimed. The Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros each locked up a spot on Friday, leaving just two slots up for grabs.
The Marlins secured their first trip to the postseason since 2003, and the third in franchise history, by sewing up a second-place finish in the National League East. The Marlins earned that distinction by defeating the New York Yankees and having the Philadelphia Phillies lose to the Tampa Bay Rays. That combination gave the Marlins a two-game lead with two left to play. There are no tiebreaker games this year, meaning everything comes down to math. The Marlins won the season series against the Phillies (by a 7-3 margin), so the Phillies had to win the spot outright, something that is no longer mathematically possible.
The New York Mets, who had their game against the Washington Nationals postponed on Friday because of rain, entered the day three games back. The Mets would've needed to win out and have the Marlins lose out to claim the spot as their own. (The Mets won the season series by a 6-4 margin.)
As manager Don Mattingly noted after the Marlins' victory, their clincher came on the anniversary of Jose Fernandez's death in 2016. Fernandez, of course, was a brilliant young pitcher and a key part of Miami's culture prior to his death in a boating accident.
The Marlins are projected to have the second-worst run differential (-39) by a playoff team since 1998, topping only the 2005 San Diego Padres. Still, the Marlins have a reasonable excuse, seeing as how they had to turn over a large chunk of their roster following an early-season COVID-19 outbreak. The Marlins owe much of their success to third baseman Brian Anderson, shortstop Miguel Rojas, and right-handed starters Sixto Sanchez and Pablo Lopez.
Elsewhere, the Reds defeated the Minnesota Twins to earn their first playoff berth since 2013. It's to be determined whether the Reds are seeded as a second-place finisher or as a pure wild card. The St. Louis Cardinals split their games against the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, leaving the Brewers two games back with a pair to play. The Reds owned the tiebreaker over the Brewers, however, as well as over the Phillies and the San Francisco Giants.
As for the Astros, they'll be making their fourth consecutive trip to the postseason after notching a second-place finish in the American League West. The Astros entered the night with a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels, meaning Houston would've had to lose out while Los Angeles won out. Obviously that didn't happen, as the Angels lost against the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending their chances of sneaking into the postseason through the tiebreaker.
The Astros had to overcome some adversity of their own, including a number of injuries to key pitchers: Justin Verlander and Roberto Osuna among them. They also had the whole sign-stealing scandal -- the one that dominated headlines all winter -- to deal with.
MLB's postseason is slated to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 29.