The Los Angeles Dodgers have 15 games remaining to make up a one-game deficit in the National League Wild Card race. Nine of those games are against the three best teams in the NL, so they’ll need to play exceptionally well to avoid missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
The Dodgers find themselves trailing the St. Louis Cardinals for the final playoff spot following a 5-2, 12th inning loss to the Redbirds on Sunday. The two teams wound up splitting the pivotal four-game series in Los Angeles last week.
St. Louis now returns home to take on the Houston Astros. The Cardinals face the Astros six times in the next 10 days during a stretch of nine consecutive games against the two worst teams in Major League Baseball (the Chicago Cubs being the other). The Cardinals close the regular season with six road games against the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds that could mean little to either opponent
The Dodgers, meanwhile, begin a nine-game road trip tomorrow that takes them to Washington, Cincinnati and San Diego. The Nationals and Reds have the two best records in the National League and the Padres have been the best team in the NL West (27-15) since August 1.
Erasing a one-game deficit wouldn’t appear to that difficult. But the Cardinals have a decided advantage over the Dodgers given their substantially weaker closing schedule.
Let’s assume that the Cardinals finish the season on a 9-6 run (6-3 versus the Astros and Cubs and 3-3 against the Nationals and Reds who are battling for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs) to finish with a 86-76 record.
The Dodgers would have to go 10-5 to reach the same 86-76 mark, forcing a one-game playoff for the final NL Wild Card spot.
Here’s what Los Angeles needs to do in each of its five remaining series to gain an improbable postseason berth.