MLB standings, playoff picture update: Brewers, Cubs making NL Central race interesting before pivotal series
Meanwhile in the NL West, the D-Backs are fading, but the Rockies and Dodgers are neck-and-neck
The 2018 MLB regular season ends Sunday, Sept. 30, meaning the postseason is now only three weeks away. There are still plenty of postseason races that have to be decided between now and then.
With that in mind, here is an update on the current National League postseason picture. Here is the SportsLine Projection System and here is what the NL postseason field would look like if the season ended today ( ):
NL East leader: Braves (79-64)
- Games remaining: 19 (10 Home, 9 Away)
- Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .503
- SportsLine's playoff odds: 89.3 percent
- SportsLine's World Series odds: 3.4 percent
A good weekend for the Braves and a bad weekend for the Phillies has Atlanta sitting 4 1/2 games up in the NL East. The Braves won three of four in Arizona and closed out the series with a stunning six-run ninth inning comeback Sunday. The Phillies? They lost two of three to the Mets. Ouch. A 4 1/2-game lead with 19 to play is a good-sized lead, but keep in mind the Braves and Phillies will play seven times in the final 10 games of the regular season, including the final three games at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies still have a chance to make a move.
NL Central leader: Cubs (83-59)
- Games remaining: 20 (13 Home, 7 Away)
- Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .493
- SportsLine's playoff odds: 99.8 percent
- SportsLine's World Series odds: 7.9 percent
What a brutal, brutal weekend for the Cubs. They beat the Nationals on Thursday, then were rained out Friday, swept in a doubleheader Saturday, and rained out again Sunday. Now the Cubbies fly home for a huge three-game series with the Brewers, then have to go back to Washington for a makeup game Thursday, then go back home to continue the homestand. Rough weekend and rough upcoming week.
The Brewers swept the Giants while the Cubs were playing around rainstorms over the weekend and they picked up two games in the standings. Milwaukee is two games back in the NL Central heading into this week's enormous three-game series at Wrigley Field. The upcoming pitching matchups:
- Monday: LHP Wade Miley (3-2, 2.12) vs. LHP Jon Lester (15-5, 3.53)
- Tuesday: RHP Jhoulys Chacin (14-6, 3.59) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (12-9, 4.14)
- Wednesday: RHP Chase Anderson (9-7, 3.95) vs. RHP Kyle Hendricks (11-10, 3.97)
The Cubs lead the season series 10-6, but the Brewers took two of three from them in Milwaukee last week. Chicago is 5-1 against the Brewers at Wrigley Field this season, so home-field advantage has been worth something for these two teams to date. This is their final head-to-head meeting of the season. The Cubs want to win at least one to ensure they are still in first place come Thursday. The Brewers are looking to go in and, if not steal away first place, at least make the Cubs sweat.
NL West leader: Rockies (78-64)
- Games remaining: 20 (11 Home, 9 Away)
- Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .542
- SportsLine's playoff odds: 27.5 percent
- SportsLine's World Series odds: 1.4 percent
Tough weekend for the Rockies. They had a chance to create some distance with the Dodgers, and instead lost two of three to Los Angeles at home. Colorado is a half-game up on the Dodgers in the division, but, right now, the task on hand is the Diamondbacks. The Rockies host the D-Backs for four games this week and it's a chance to bury them in the NL West race. The Dodgers and Rockies will play three games in Los Angeles next week. Right now, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Rockies, Dodgers, or D-Backs in first place when that series opens.
NL wild card leader: Brewers (82-62)
- Games remaining: 18 (9 Home, 9 Away)
- Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .484
- SportsLine's playoff odds: 96.2 percent
- SportsLine's World Series odds: 2.6 percent
As mentioned earlier, the Brewers are only two games behind the Cubs in the NL Central going into this week's three-game series at Wrigley Field. Milwaukee opened up a 2 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals for the top wild-card spot over the weekend and they're 3 1/2 games up on Dodgers for a wild-card spot in general. The Brewers and Cardinals do still have one series remaining (Sept. 24-26 in St. Louis), otherwise the Brewers have one of the easiest remaining schedules in baseball according to opponent's winning percentage. With a decent lead on the top wild-card spot, the goal this week is to give the Cubs a run for their money in the NL Central.
NL wild card runner-up: Cardinals (79-64)
- Games remaining: 19 (13 Home, 6 Away)
- Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .546
- SportsLine's playoff odds: 74.9 percent
- SportsLine's World Series odds: 5.1 percent
The good news: The Cardinals have a ton of home games remaining. The bad news: The Cardinals have the toughest remaining schedule among all contending teams based on opponent's winning percentage. St. Louis is 6-6 in 12 games since naming interim Mike Schildt their full-time manager (they went 26-12 in his first 38 games), which is probably just a coincidence, but it is a poorly timed crash back to Earth. The Cardinals have cooled off and they're now 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers for the top wild-card spot. They're one game up on the Dodgers for the second wild-card spot. Four games between the Cardinals and Dodgers at Busch Stadium await this coming weekend.
Teams on the outside looking in
- Dodgers: 78-65 (84.5 percent postseason odds per SportsLine)
- Diamondbacks: 76-67 (14.6 percent postseason odds per SportsLine)
- Phillies: 74-68 (11.8 percent postseason odds per SportsLine)
The Dodgers are a half-game behind the Rockies in the NL West and one game behind the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot, so while they're not in postseason position right now, they're right in the thick of things. In fact, SportsLine gives the Dodgers the best World Series odds in baseball (22.7 percent). For real. The system loves their roster. As for the Phillies, they are 4 1/2 games back of the second wild-card spot and they have a better chance of catching the Braves (also 4 1/2 games back) in the NL East given all their remaining head-to-head games.
The D-Backs? Good gravy what a disaster. They've lost 11 of their last 16 games to go from 1 1/2 games up in the division to 2 1/2 games back and out of the postseason picture entirely. It's not just the fact they're losing either. It's the way they're losing. The bullpen has blown a lead in the seventh inning or later five times in those 11 losses, and in two other games the bullpen took the loss when tied after seven innings. That's rough. I suppose the good news is the D-Backs still have seven games remaining with the Rockies, including four at Coors Field this week. They're not out of it by any means, but they have to start playing better and soon.
Seven AL teams have already been eliminated from the postseason race. Only two NL teams are out of it at the moment. The Marlins were eliminated from postseason contention over the weekend. The Reds, who were knocked out of the NL Central race over the weekend, will be eliminated from the wild-card race with their next loss or the next Cardinals win. The Mets and Giants are the next two teams up on the postseason chopping block after that.
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