The season has made the transition from marathon, to sprint, to final push for the playoff contenders. The top four teams in the hunt for the two wild card spots in the National League are all down to the final 25-26 games on the schedule. Arizona is currently the hottest team in baseball, winning their tenth straight game yesterday and opening up a 6.5 game lead for the top wild card spot. The last three wins coming at the expense of the Rockies who have lost 15 of their last 22 games. This completely opened the door to the N.L. Central division playoff contenders. The N.L. West schedule will not be forgiving for the Rockies or the Diamondbacks. Let’s take an in-depth look at the remaining schedule for each of the four contenders.
Milwaukee 72-62 3.5 games back in the division. 1/2 game back for the second wild card.
The Brewers are coming off of a series win against Washington after taking 3 out of 4 from the top team in the N.L. East. Milwaukee has only lost two of their last ten series and have stayed in the thick of the playoff chase. Pitching has been the surprising strength form the Brewers in the second half after being carried by the offense in the seasons first half. Milwaukee will face a tough road schedule with 12 of the next 15 games away from Miller Park.
Remaining schedule: 3@Cincinnati, 3@Chicago, 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 3@Miami, 3@Pittsburgh, 4 vs. Chicago, 3 vs. Cincinnati, 3@St.Louis
St.Louis 69-67 6.0 games back in the division. 3.5 games back for the second wild card.
As Cardinals fans, almost everyone is a little surprised to still be in the playoff conversation. While it’s hard to believe this team can make a run, the schedule will definitely give them the opportunity. St. Louis will be in San Diego for the next four days to face the improved Padres. As we saw last week this S.D. team can not be taken lightly, though the pitching match-ups would seem to favor the Cardinals. Carlos Martinez will go today, with Lance Lynn getting the bookend game on Thursday. Jack Flaherty will pitch the third game of the series and should be a tough look for the Padres the first time around.
Even harder to believe is the fact the Cardinals may not be completely out of the division race. Chicago has raced out to a sizable lead over Milwaukee and St.Louis, it’s still just a weeks worth of games for either team to close the gap. While St. Louis only has three games remaining with Milwaukee, they face the Cubs seven more times. The Cubs and Brewers will also play seven more times, allowing St. Louis to gain ground on one of those teams.
Remaining Schedule: 4@San Diego, 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 3 vs. Cincinnati, 3@Chicago, 3@Cincinnati, 3@Pittsburgh, 4 vs. Chicago, 3 vs. Milwaukee
Arizona 79-58 13.5 games back in the division. +6.5 game lead in the the wild card.
Its tough not to look at the Diamondbacks and not see the clear-cut favorite to hold onto their playoff spot. Arizona will head to Los Angeles to start a three game series with the Dodgers this afternoon. This will be the last regular season match-up between the west’s top two teams. While the division has been difficult, the schedule is favorable to the Diamondbacks. 14 of their remaining 25 games will be in Arizona with only one of those teams currently above .500.
Remaining schedule: 3@ L.A., 3 vs. San Diego, 4 vs. Colorado, 3@S.F., 3@S.D., 3 vs. Miami, 3 vs. S.F., 3@Kansas City.
Colorado 72-64 20.0 games back in the division. 1/2 game lead for the second wild card.
The Rockies are in a free-fall and the schedule is by far the toughest of the four remaining contenders. The remaining teams on the schedule are collectively 24 games over .500 with the majority of the games away from Denver. After hosting San Francisco for three games starting today, the next eight games are on the road with four in L.A. and four in Arizona. They could very quickly be on the outside looking in toward a possible playoff spot.
Remaining schedule: 3 vs. San Francisco, 4@Los Angeles, 4@Arizona, 3 vs. San Diego, 2@S.F., 4@S.D., 3 vs. Miami, 3 vs. Los Angeles.
The Cardinals have the most favorable schedule of the contenders, but must play better within the division to stay in the race. The new faces in the lineup and rotation could be the spark the team has lacked for the majority of 2017.
Prediction: Milwaukee coming into St. Louis for the final series of the year will be must watch television. Get your tickets while you can.
Have a fun and safe Labor Day.
Thanks for reading.