NL Post-Season Battle Going Down to the Wire (Maybe Longer)

Tracy Ringolsby

The final day of the regular season has arrived -- maybe.

It is quite possible that the Cardinals could be in Detroit on Monday to make up two games against the Tigers to determine whether the Cardinals advanced to the post-season.

Any ties with teams that played the scheduled 60 games will be decided by mathematical tiebreakers.

While there are seedings still to be decided in the AL, the eight AL qualifiers are set. Things aren't as cut-and-dry in the NL, where there are eight teams who are set, but four teams battling for two open spots -- the NL Central No. 2 seeding and the No. 8 wild-card seeding.

Record Entering Sunday

Cardinals: 29-28 (1 game left vs. MIL, possible two-game makeup doubleheader at Detroit on Monday)

Giants: 29-30 (1 game left vs. SD)

Brewers: 29-30 (1 game left at STL)

Phillies: 28-31 (1 game left at TB)

3-way tie for final spot (29-31)

How it happens: Cardinals beat Brewers; Giants lose; Phillies win

Who gets in: Cardinals, Phillies

The Cardinals control their own destiny. If St. Louis beats Milwaukee on Sunday at Busch Stadium, it claims one of the final two spots. If the Giants also lose but the Phillies win, that would leave three teams tied for the eighth seed.

Because these teams have no head-to-head matchups between them, the tiebreaker goes to intradivision record. The Phillies,  21-19 against the NL East, would benefit. The Brewers (19-21 vs. the Central with a loss Sunday) and Giants (18-22 vs. the West with a loss Sunday) would be out of luck. This is the only scenario in which the Phillies get into the playoff field.

3-way tie for final two spots (.500)

How it happens: Brewers beat Cardinals; Giants win

Who gets in: Brewers; second team TBD

The other three teams are tied with .500 records, but with the complication of the Cardinals having played two fewer games.

The Brewers clinch a spot in this case, due to having the intradivision record tiebreaker over the Giants (20-20 over 19-21). That leaves St. Louis and San Francisco. With a playoff spot hanging in the balance, the Cardinals would need to play Detroit on Monday, giving them two shots to win one game for a clinch. 

A 30th Cards victory would do the job, as they also have an intradivision tiebreaker over the Giants, with 21 wins in the bank against the NL Central entering Sunday. Only if St. Louis lost twice to Detroit would San Francisco get the final spot.

2-way tie for final spot (29-31)

How it happens: Cardinals beat Brewers; Giants and Phillies lose

Who gets in: Cardinals, Brewers

The Cardinals would clinch with a win, while the Phillies would be eliminated with a loss. The Brewers and Giants would wind up tied for the final spot, with Milwaukee having the aforementioned tiebreaker edge due to its superior intradivision record.

2-way tie for final spot

How it happens: Brewers beat Cardinals; Giants lose; Phillies win

Who gets in: Brewers, Cardinals

Despite a loss, the Cardinals would clinch without having to play on Monday. Why? If they played and lost both of those games, they would finish tied with the Giants and Phillies at 29-31. However, St. Louis owns the tiebreaker over San Francisco because of a better intradivision record. The Cardinals and Phillies would be tied in that respect, at 21-19, which means the tie would be broken based on each team’s past 20 division games. Even with the loss Sunday, the Cardinals would be 10-10 against the NL Central in that time. The Phillies are locked in at 8-12 against the NL East, so there’s no way they could pass the Cards.

No tie for final spot

How it happens: Cardinals beat Brewers; Giants win

Who gets in: Cardinals, Giants

San Francisco would finish one game ahead of Milwaukee and at least one ahead of Philadelphia, claiming the final spot.

And if that doesn't confuse you. ...

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