Much like the number donned by the Polish lad in Milwaukee's Sausage Race, the Brewers have long held onto the #1 spot atop the NL wild card standings. Led by several rising stars and emboldened by the acquisition of reigning AL Cy Young CC Sabathia, the Brew Crew have looked for a while now like an inevitable playoff team, even pushing the Cubs for NL Central supremacy before being knocked back down to Wild Card status.
However, the Brewers will have to fight to maintain their hold on a postseason spot and in the end, I believe they will miss out once again. The Brewers have sputtered here at the beginning of the season's final month, winning only 2 of their first 6 September contests, and the schedule will be unkind after they complete a 4-gamer with the Reds. The Brewers will then have to travel to Citizens Bank Park for a 4-game set against the contending Phillies and also have 6 games left against divison rival Chicago, who have won 6 of 10 against Milwaukee this season.
Most of the question over the past month has circled around the NL East (and to a lesser extent, the putrid NL West), and whether the Phillies or the Mets would be the East's representative in the postseason.The answer is both. The Mets will win the division despite the loss of Billy Wagner for the season, and Philadelphia will take home the wild card.
Despite the loss of Billy Wagner for the season, New York's bullpen has actually performed well of late, and recent acquisition Luis Ayala has filled in admirably. The Met bats have been hot as well, showing the ability to carry the team when pitching isn't as good as it should be. The emergence of Mike Pelfrey as a star and the continuing greatness of Johan Santana have helped the Mets to a 29-19 record since the all-star break. And let me ask you this, has any player had more improbably success this year than Mets outfielder Fernando Tatis, who re-emerged out of nowhere? Has any player had a more unlikely comeback than first baseman Carlos Delgado, who now has 35 homers on the season? The Mets have played well of late and each of their next 11 games are against the dregs of the NL East, the Nationals and Braves. There's no reason why they shouldn't win 10 of those games.
Philadelphia has been a bit more inconsistent the the Mets lately, and the recent dreadfulness of Kyle Kendrick has to be concerning. However, since Brett Myers's return from the minors, he has been a truly dominant force in the rotation and Jamie Moyer continues to astound the league by pitching so well at his advanced age. Brad Lidge has been the best closer in the majors all season, giving the Phillies a great advantage in the 9th inning. The reason the Phillies will catch the Brewers comes down to the crucial 4-game series the two will play in Philly over next weekend. The Phillies, like the Mets before them, will be fortunate enough to avoid facing Sabathia, who has been the league's best pitcher in the second half and really has been the carrying force behind the Brew Crew's success recently.
I guess I'm obligated to address the West. Well, I'll say this, the West is terrible and no team out there really deserves to sniff the playoffs. In the end, the Dodgers will pull it out, based on the strength of a newly-acceptable offense. The addition of Manny Ramirez has not only given them one of the game's premier hitters, but has given them a line-up that goes 8 deep with quality hitters (probably with the exception of shortstop. Nomar doesn't even belong there). Andre Ethier has torn it up over the past month and Matt Kemp is very close to becoming a superstar. The Diamondbacks have superior starting pitching, but have a shakier bullpen and can't put up runs consistently enough to win.
In the end, the playoff picture will clear up and show the Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers as division winners and the Phillies holding the wild card in their hands.