If the American League playoff race, with its one mathematically open spot, were a couples dinner, its National League counterpart would be more like a house party—wild, unpredictable and way more exciting.
At least, that's true in the NL Central.
The Chicago Cubs need only win one more game or see the Milwaukee Brewers lose once more in their next five games to clinch a second consecutive division crown. Barring an epic collapse, the Cubs will have a chance to defend their first World Series pennant in 108 years, and likely with a division championship in their back pocket.
Their divisional-round matchup against the Washington Nationals would be set, but not so for the Arizona Diamondbacks' one-game playoff in Phoenix.
National League Wild-Card Contenders Schedule
- Arizona Diamondbacks: vs. San Francisco Giants (1 game), at Kansas City Royals (3 games)
- Chicago Cubs: at St. Louis Cardinals (2 games), vs. Cincinnati Reds (3 games)
- Colorado Rockies: vs. Miami Marlins (1 game), vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (3 games)
- Milwaukee Brewers: vs. Cincinnati Reds (2 games), at St. Louis Cardinals (3 games)
- St. Louis Cardinals: vs. Chicago Cubs (2 games), vs. Milwaukee Brewers (3 games)
The Colorado Rockies have the inside track on the National League's second wild-card slot. At 85-73, they own a 1.5-game lead on the Brewers and a 2.5-game cushion ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bud Black's ball club will complete its 162-game schedule with four more at Coors Field, where the Rockies have posted a 44-33 record. The last three of those will come opposite the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have already locked down the best record in baseball. The Rockies have thus far split their season series against L.A., 8-8, though Colorado swept their most recent four-game stint at Dodger Stadium.
The Brewers and Cardinals may well eliminate themselves from the race before the Rockies seize the last remaining NL playoff spot for themselves. While Colorado closes out its campaign at Coors Field, Milwaukee and St. Louis will be busy beating up on each other at Busch Stadium.
The Brewers have a 9-7 edge in their 2017 season series against the Cards. The last time these two NL Central foes came to blows in St. Louis, Milwaukee came away with three wins in four games.
Either team would have reason to believe it might go on an extended run if it squeezes into the Senior Circuit's postseason picture. Milwaukee went 3-4 against Arizona this season and split its six games opposite L.A. St. Louis, meanwhile, took four of seven from the Diamondbacks during the regular season and, while 3-4 head-to-head with the Dodgers in 2017, can lean—however lightly—on its last two playoff successes against the Blue Crew in 2013 and 2014.
None of that will matter if the Rockies take care of their business. Nor can Colorado count on a Cinderella run like the one it authored 10 years ago en route to the World Series. The Rockies went 8-11 against Arizona this season and could finish with a losing record to the Dodgers if L.A. sweeps its way through Denver to end the season.
The potential scenarios between the Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals are tricky enough to unpack even assuming the Cubs come out on top in the NL Central. Colorado took its season series from Milwaukee but wound up on the losing end against St. Louis. And there may be no clarity between the Brewers and Cards until Sunday's season finale.