Here are the remaining schedules for the contending National League teams who have yet to officially clinch a spot.
2 games vs the Mets in Atlanta.
3 games vs the Marlins in Florida.
3 games vs the Nationals in Washington.
3 games vs the Phillies in Philadelphia.
St. Louis Cardinals
3 games vs the Phillies in Philadelphia.
3 games vs the Mets in St. Louis.
3 games vs the Cubs in St. Louis.
3 games vs the Astros in Houston.
2 games vs the Reds in Cincinnati.
3 games vs the Cubs in Chicago.
3 games vs the Marlins in Milwaukee.
3 games vs the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
2 games vs the Padres in San Diego.
3 games vs the Pirates in Arizona.
3 games vs the Giants in Arizona.
3 games vs the Dodgers in Arizona.
San Francisco Giants
2 games vs the Rockies in Colorado.
3 games vs the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
3 games vs the Diamondbacks in Arizona.
3 games vs the Rockies in San Francisco.
The National League playoff picture seems settled, but it’s not completely settled; I’m not a fan of the CoolStandings practice of doling out percentages on playoff likelihoods—like all stats and calculations they can easily be misinterpreted and give a false sense of security to players, media and fans.
Here are NL top to bottom standing for contending teams that have yet to clinch:
The most vulnerable team currently in playoff position is the Braves. They’ve played poorly of late and their main concerns have to be the Cardinals and what happens with the Diamondbacks and Giants.
It’s a non-issue if the Braves handle the Mets over the next two days, but they got hammered last night; they really can’t afford to lose even one of the next two games.
After the Mets series, they go to Florida and Washington for three games each; the Marlins are dysfunctional and catastrophic—winning 2 of those games is necessary; the Nationals are no pushover and Davey Johnson has his team fighting for third place.
Let’s say the Braves win the next two games against the Mets and 2 of 3 vs the Marlins. That gets them to 90-66.
The Cardinals are playing the Phillies—a team that one would assume would love nothing better than to see the Braves—with their deep bullpen lefties Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters to handle the Phillies prime bats—out of the playoffs entirely; if the Cardinals take 2 of the next 3 games vs the Phillies, that puts them at 84-69 with the Mets coming to St. Louis; if the Cardinals win 2 of those games, they’ll be at 86-70 as they prepare to play the Cubs.
If the Nationals manage to take 2 of 3 from the Braves and the Cardinals sweep the Cubs (or the math works out so the Braves have 91 wins going into the last 3 games while the Cardinals have 89)—it’s workable for the pursuing team considering the Phillies will go all-out to get rid of the Braves.
The safest team now is the Brewers because they’re not playing any of the teams pursuing them and the teams they’re playing aren’t very good. They’ll get in easily.
The Diamondbacks position seemed safe a few days ago, but the Giants have gotten blazing hot in anticipation of a 3 game series in Arizona next weekend.
Let’s say the Diamondbacks win the next 2 games vs the Padres and are 89-64 as they head home to play the Pirates; the Giants win 1 of the next 2 vs the Rockies and are 82-71 as they start a series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
Team rivalries can’t be discounted; one would assume the Cubs are going to do everything they can to knock the Cardinals out of contention; the same can be said about the Dodgers against the Giants. The Dodgers are looking to finish at or above .500; Don Mattingly is too honorable to have his team lie down to interfere with the Giants making a late run, but the Dodgers wouldn’t be unhappy to see the Giants eliminated.
Even if the division isn’t clinched for the Diamondbacks at the outset of their series with the Giants in Arizona, they’ll probably only need one win to take the division.
The Diamondbacks are safe.
If the Giants have 86 wins going into the final series with the Rockies and the Braves haven’t clinched their spot, the Braves are a target not only for the Cardinals, but the Giants too. With their starting pitching, no one wants the Giants in the playoffs.
As the percentages indicate, the overwhelming likelihood is that the current playoff teams remain the same, but if any one of the trio among the Braves, Brewers and Diamondbacks is vulnerable, it’s the Braves and they have to keep their eyes on two different teams—the Cardinals and Giants.
The Braves had better beat up on the Mets, Marlins and Nats or they could have a problem in those last 3 games with the Phillies.