MLB standings, playoff picture update: There's a five-team race for two NL wild-card spots

The 2018 MLB regular season ends Sunday, Sept. 30, meaning the postseason is now only five 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 (Click here for the American League playoff picture):

Make sure to check out SportsLine's daily pick sheet for insight about every game.

NL East leader: Braves (73-57)

  • Games remaining: 32 (19 Home, 13 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .528
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 80.3 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 4.1 percent

Despite going 5-5 in their past 10 games and splitting four games with the Marlins over the weekend, the Braves did gain a game on the second place Phillies past week. Atlanta owns a three-game lead over Philadelphia at the moment, but I wouldn't call that lead safe. For starters, only the D-Backs have a tougher remaining schedule than the Braves among contenders based on opponent's winning percentage.

And secondly, the Braves and Phillies still have seven head-to-head games remaining this season. They'll meet seven times in the final 10 regular season games, including the final three games of the year at Citizens Bank Park. This is a two-team race now that the Nationals have officially thrown in the towel on their season. The Braves have a three-game lead and that's much better than having a three-game deficit. I'm not sure I'd call that lead secure, however. Still lots of games to go.

NL Central leader: Cubs (76-53)

  • Games remaining: 33 (16 Home, 17 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .503
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 98.0 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 8.2 percent

The Cubs have opened up a four-game lead over the Cardinals and a 4 1/2-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central. They've won their past five games -- within that five-game winning streak is their first four-game sweep of the Reds at Wrigley Field since 1945 -- since that weird stretch in which they scored exactly one run in five straight games, all on solo home runs. Chicago still has plenty of head-to-head games remaining with St. Louis and Milwaukee -- they still have six games remaining with the Brewers and they finish the season with three games against the Cardinals -- and the rest of the remaining schedule isn't a pushover, so a third consecutive NL Central title is not yet in the bag. The Cubbies are in good position to win the division, however.

NL West leader: Diamondbacks (72-58)

  • Games remaining: 32 (15 Home, 17 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .538
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 51.8 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 2.9 percent

The division no one wants to win, or so it seems. The D-Backs are one game up on the Rockies and 2 1/2 games up on the Dodgers, who continue to linger despite their bullpen woes. The NL West remains wide open. The D-Backs have seven games remaining with both the Rockies and Dodgers (the Rockies and Dodgers have six remaining games with each other) and, based on opponent's winning percentage, Arizona has the toughest remaining schedule in baseball. This is, hands down, the division race to watch the rest of the season. It feels like any one of D-Backs, Rockies, or Dodgers could win it.

NL wild card leader: Cardinals (73-58)

  • Games remaining: 31 (19 Home, 12 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .513
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 73.7 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 5.5 percent

Since replacing former manager Mike Matheny with interim manager Mike Shildt, the Cardinals have the NL's best record at 26-12, and they went from four games back of the second wild-card spot to a half-game up on the first wild-card spot. They're 1 1/2 games up on a wild-card spot in general. St. Louis is surely looking to catch the Cubs for the NL Central title, but there are five teams within 2 1/2 games of the two wild-card spots. The Cardinals have the top spot right now. That is subject to change on a daily basis going forward.

NL wild card runner-up: Brewers (73-59)

  • Games remaining: 30 (15 Home, 15 Away)
  • Remaining opponent's winning percentage: .493
  • SportsLine's playoff odds: 59.4 percent
  • SportsLine's World Series odds: 1.8 percent

Overall, August has not been kind to the Brewers. They have won five of their past seven games, but they are 10-12 this month overall, and have fallen from one game back in the division to 4 1/2 games back. Milwaukee has gone from 2 1/2 games up on the second wild-card spot to just one game up (and tied in the loss column). They're a half-game behind the Cardinals for the top wild-card spot and one game up on the Rockies, two games up on the Phillies, and 2 1/2 games up on the Dodgers for the second wild-card spot. As a fan of postseason chaos, I am rooting hard for a five-team tie for the two NL wild-card spots. The Brewers are sitting in the second wild-card spot now. That position is hardly secure, however.

Teams on the outside looking in

  • Rockies: 71-59 (30.7 percent postseason odds per SportsLine)
  • Phillies: 70-60 (28.9 percent postseason odds per SportsLine)
  • Dodgers: 70-61 (71.0 percent postseason odds per SportsLine)

SportsLine loves loves loves the Dodgers because of their talent and depth, but here we are on August 27, and the whole seems to be less than the sum of the parts. The bullpen is a mess and the offense has been so inconsistent. The Dodgers are only 2 1/2 games back of both the second wild-card spot the NL West lead, so it would be silly to count them out. I just think SportsLine is giving the club too much credit based on everything we've seen to date.

The Rockies dropped two of three at home to the Cardinals over the weekend, dropping them one game behind the Brewers for the second wild-card spot, and 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the top wild-card spot. That said, Colorado is only game behind the D-Backs in the NL West and that is their focus. Winning the division is preferable to playing in the Wild Card Game, and besides, the NL West is a three-team race with Arizona and the Dodgers. The wild-card is a five-team race. It is much easier to hold off two teams than four teams.

The Phillies might be in the toughest spot of any NL contender. They're three games back in the NL East and two games back of the second wild-card spot, and they've been playing .500 ball for three months now (45-44 since June 17). Despite the larger deficit, Philadelphia might have an easier path to the NL East title than a wild-card spot. They have seven games remaining with the Braves, including the final three games of the season at Citizens Bank Park. The division title is only a two-team race. 

No other National League team is within eight games of a postseason spot. The Nationals have given up on the season -- the recent Daniel Murphy trade and Matt Adams waiver dump confirmed that -- and the Giants have faded. There's a good chance Andrew McCutchen will be dealt to a contender at some point before the Aug. 31 postseason-eligibility deadline.

Teams eliminated

Unlike the American League, where already two teams (Orioles and Royals) have been eliminated from postseason contention, every NL team remains mathematically alive as of Monday. The Padres have the league's worst record at 50-83 and they'll be the first NL team knocked out of the race. Their elimination numbers are seven in the wild card and eight in the division, so they'll remain alive for at least a few more days. Once the Padres go down, the Marlins and Reds figure to be the next teams to be eliminated.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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