For all intents and purposes, the NL Central is a two team race and that gives extra flavor to the already important midweek series between the Brewers and Cardinals. However, it's not just the NL Central that's in play for the Crew. San Francisco has fallen back, opening the door for the Brewers to grab the second best record in the NL. And the Braves, once thought to have a lock on the wild card, have also come back to the pack.
We can all assume Philadelphia has the NL East wrapped up, so we can say there are five teams fighting for the remaining three NL playoff spots. That's plenty of scoreboard watching with seven weeks to go. Here's a little primer of the remaining contenders (team records are as of 11 pm Tuesday):
Atlanta Braves (68-49) Eight games behind Philly but currently hold the wild card spot. Atlanta has two big weeks remaining. Next week Atlanta hosts San Francisco and Arizona and then starting September 5th the Braves play at Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Milwaukee Brewers (66-50) Four games ahead of St. Louis, three games ahead of San Francisco and 1 1/2 behind Atlanta. We've been saying it for a month. The 12 second half games against St. Louis will decide the division. Not surprisingly the Brewers are 3-1 thus far.
San Francisco Giants (63-53) San Francisco holds a slim 1/2 game lead over Arizona. On Monday the Giants embark on an 11 game, 11 day road trip and also have six games against the Diamondbacks in September.
Arizona Diamondbacks (62-53) Five behind Atlanta. The D-Backs are back in the NL West race but will they stay in it? After Monday Arizona has no more off days in August and must navigate a rough Philadelphia-Atlanta-Washington road trip.
St. Louis Cardinals (62-54) 5 1/2 games behind Atlanta. The make-or-break stretch lasts from August 30 through September 19: three at Milwaukee, 3 against Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Atlanta all at home, then at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.