Playoff Watch: The latest on Braves’ possible opponents

Cutout fans and two cheerleaders holding the 2020 pennant are the only ones looking on as the Atlanta Braves celebrate clinching their third consecutive National League East championship title with a 11-1 victory over the Miami Marlins Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Cutout fans and two cheerleaders holding the 2020 pennant are the only ones looking on as the Atlanta Braves celebrate clinching their third consecutive National League East championship title with a 11-1 victory over the Miami Marlins Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Braves will open the playoffs with a three-game series at Truist Park next week. It’s probably going to be a few more days before they know who their opponent will be.

An update through Wednesday night’s games:

Will the Braves be the National League’s No. 2 or No. 3 seed? The Braves' win over the Marlins on Wednesday, coupled with the Cubs' loss to Pittsburgh, gave the NL East champion Braves (34-22) a two-game lead over the NL Central-leading Cubs (32-24) for the No. 2 seed. (The NL West champion Dodgers have clinched the No. 1 seed.) Because so many teams are closely bunched contenders for the 5-6-7-8 seeds, it’s unpredictable at this point whether the No. 2 or No. 3 seed would yield a more favorable opening-round matchup.

(A review of how the seeding works for the expanded playoffs this year: The three division champs will be the top three seeds in order of record. The second-place finishers in the three divisions will be the Nos. 4-6 seeds in order of record. And the two wild-card teams will be the Nos. 7-8 seeds in order of record. The top four seeds will be the home teams throughout the first-round series, dubbed the Wild Card Series by MLB.)

Who would the Braves play in the opening round if they’re the No. 2 seed? They would open against the No. 7 seed (the team with the better record of the two wild cards). As the records stand after Wednesday’s games, the Giants would be the No. 7 seed by the thinnest of margins if the regular season had ended then. (The day before, No. 7 would have been the Reds. Tomorrow, who knows?) Bottom line is that any of six teams – Giants, Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Marlins, Phillies – could wind up as the No. 7 seed.

Who would the Braves play in the opening round if they’re the No. 3 seed? They would open against the No. 6 seed, which will be the team with the worst record among the second-place finishers. As the standings stand after Wednesday’s games, that would be the Marlins, the second-place team in the East, against whom the Braves have won six of nine meetings this season. But the Phillies, who beat the Nationals on Wednesday, are now just one-half game behind the Marlins for second place in the East (and a possible No. 6 seed). It’s also possible the second-place team in the Central (Cardinals, Reds or Brewers) will wind up as the No. 6 seed.

So to recap: With four days left in the regular season, we know the Braves will open the playoffs with a best-of-three series at Truist Park against the Giants or the Reds or the Cardinals or the Brewers or the Marlins or the Phillies. “Come Sunday (at) about 7 o’clock, we’ll know,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Wednesday, “and we’ll just plan from there.”

Check back each morning this week for the latest update on the Braves Playoff Watch.