You don’t get pennant races much these days. But if you’re a fan of chaos, then the National League’s last week just might be for you.
The American League has no drama (and some would argue no soul thanks to the DH, but I’m no puritan. I can’t make the hats work). We know the playoff teams, we know their order aside from where the coin-flip game will be played. At this point it’s semantics.
But in the National League, you can’t get to the catering just yet. Four teams and three spots open. And it may take beyond this week to figure it out.
The Milwaukee Brewers have the top wildcard spot by two games. With six games to go, that would be hard to cough up. Even if they were to split these last six, they would need both the Rockies and Cardinals to run the table to knock them out of the playoffs altogether. Pretty unlikely.
Except that the week kicks off with the Cardinals hosting the Brewers for three games, so they could get the Brewers halfway to the Heimlich if they so choose. The Rockies will be hoping it goes the other way, softening up the Cardinals to be chased down.
But the Rockies still have two chairs open for them before the music stops. They’re a game-and-a-half behind the Dodgers for the NL West, and the same distance behind the Cardinals for the second spot in the coin-flip, with a game-in-hand on both. That could be vital.
The Rockies have something of an advantage on the Cardinals, as they will get their next seven at home while the Cardinals are on the road. They’ll also be welcoming the Phillies and Nationals to Blake St., and both have nothing to play for. The Cardinals have to head to Wrigley to cap off the season. But that point the Cubs could be nursing hangovers after clinching both the NL Central and best record in the league.
Sadly for Rocky Top, the Dodgers get three games with the lost-in-the-woods Diamondbacks and then finish in San Francisco against a Giants team that has replaced all its bats with pool noodles. While you can be sure the Giants will be fully interested in mucking things up for the Dodgers whatever the standings, there may be precious little they can do about it.
The Rockies are basically looking at going 6-1 to really make anyone sweat. 5-2 would see St. Lous and/or the Dodgers have to go only 4-2 to outlast them, where 3-3 for either would see a play-in game for a given spot in the post-season. 6-1 for Colorado makes for much more interesting reading.
Making it more silly is that the Brewers are having a “beginner” start tonight in St. Louis, i.e. reliever Dan Jennings who will go no more than an inning or so. The Brew Crew will then run out the entire bullpen if it comes to that, and they’re making noise like they might do that in the wildcard game as well, given the state of their rotation. It’s layered, folks.
Of course, what anarchists like me want is for all four teams to be tied when the music stops, or at least the Rockies, Dodgers, and Cardinals to be so. That would force two play-in games, one for the right to get into another play-in game. SOME MEN JUST WANT TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN.
We’ve only ever had one play-in-to-play-in since MLB went to two wildcard teams. Maybe it’s time for more.