Thanks to a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago Cubs have pulled to within two games of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central race, but the race as a whole has tightened up significantly.
That is because the Brewers, who are still chasing the Cubs in the wild card race, won two out of three games from the Cardinals this weekend, including a thriller Sunday that saw Ryan Braun clobber a grand slam in the ninth inning to put Milwaukee in front.
That home run helped the Brewers immensely, and tightened the race both in the Central and the wild card hunt.
Here is how things stand right now:
National League Central
Cubs 81-68 2 GB
Brewers 80-69 3 GB
National League Wild Card
Brewers 80-69 1 GB
Mets 77-71 3.5 GB
Here is a team-by-team breakdown of the road ahead.
The Cubs’ strong weekend has left them within a game and a half of the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot in the National League, and two games from the Cardinals in the central race.
The good news for the Cubs is that they still have seven home games left this season, and they will have plenty of opportunities to take on one of the teams they’re chasing, as they have seven games remaining against the Cardinals.
Four of those games will be played at Wrigley Field, while the final three games of the season will be played at Busch Stadium.
The bad news? The Cubs have to deal with three more games against the Reds, who have won nine of the 16 games they’ve played against Chicago this season.
Things won’t get any easier for the Cardinals in the season’s closing weeks, as they are playing 13 games against teams still in the playoff hunt. Seven of those games are against the Cubs, and the remaining six are against teams in the thick of the wild card hunt, with three against the Nationals and three against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The good news for the Cardinals is that six of those games are at Busch Stadium, and with seven games left against the Cubs, their divisional fate will largely be in their own hands.
The Brewers have a big hill to climb with the loss of Christian Yelich, but they have by far the easiest schedule of any contender, as they are playing 13 games against teams all but eliminated from the postseason picture.
They have a seven-game homestand coming up against the Pirates and Padres, and wrap up their season with road games against the Reds and Rockies.
If the season ended today, the Cubs would take on the Nationals in the National League Wild Card Game, but would have to travel to Nationals Park to do so.
The Cubs will be put in an odd spot over the next three days, as the Nationals and Cardinals will duel in St. Louis, but after that the Nationals have an interesting finish to their schedule, with three games against the Marlins, a five-game series against the Phillies, and a three-game home series against the Indians to wrap up the season.
The Mets still have an outside shot of snagging a wild card berth, but will need some significant help, as they don’t have any games remaining against teams they are chasing.
The Mets will head on the road for their final road series against the Rockies and Reds, then will head home for seven games against the Marlins and Braves to wrap up the regular season.