Four scenarios to settle NL races
The battle to determine the final two National League playoff spots has come down to the season's final day -- and potentially beyond.
The Padres needed to either sweep the Giants in San Francisco or have the Phillies sweep the Braves in Atlanta in order to avoid elimination this weekend, and with two of the three games in each of those series in the books, both sweeps are still possible.
Having taken the first two games in San Francisco while the Braves have lost two to the Phillies, the Padres have pulled even with Atlanta for the NL wild card and within a game of the Giants in the NL West, leaving those two playoff spots unsettled entering the final day of the regular season.
Here, then, are the four ways that things can play out in the NL on Sunday with three teams still battling for those final two playoff spots:
• If the Padres and Phillies win, completing their sweeps, the Braves will be eliminated, the Padres and Giants will be tied atop the NL West, the Padres will win the division by virtue of their head-to-head record against the Giants this season (which would be 13-5), and the Giants will earn the wild card.
• If the Giants and Braves win, avoiding sweeps, they will win the NL West and wild card respectively, eliminating the Padres.
• If the Giants and Phillies win, the Giants will win the NL West, and the Braves and Padres will tie for the Wild Card. A one-game playoff will then be played on Monday between the Braves and Padres to determine the NL Wild Card entrant.
• If the Padres and Braves win, they and the Giants will all have identical 91-71 records and two playoff games will be required to sort out the postseason field. The Giants and Padres would play on Monday in San Diego to determine the NL West winner, and the loser of that game would play the Braves on Tuesday to decide the wild card. Though playoff games have been required to settle regular season races 14 times in major league history, this outcome would mark the first time that two postseason berths were both decided by playoffs in the same season.