Let's put this plainly: it's now a three-team race for the final two National League playoff spots. The top two teams make it. The three teams are the San Diego Padres, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Right now--and I'll be updating this all week--they stack up thusly:
- Padres 86-74, NL West co-leader; NL Wild Card co-leader
- Dodgers 86-74, NL West co-leader; NL Wild Card co-leader
- Phillies 84-76, 2nd place, NL Wild Card (2.0 GB)
- All three teams finish on the road for the last week. The Phils and Padres this season have been unusually good road teams (though, in small sample size, it doesn't matter). The Dodgers have not.
- All three teams could face aces on the last day of the season. In the case of Brandon Webb, who will be looking to avenge a recent loss to the Padres, his Cy Young Award chances might hinge on how he performs. Otherwise, in the last week, the Phils face just one other big 2006 winner--Marlins rookie lefty Scott Olsen, whom they handled on Sunday--while the Padres have to see another Cy Young hopeful, Chris Carpenter, and three other guys with double digit wins in Suppan, Batista and Livan Hernandez. The Dodgers, like the Phillies, have their hardest assignments in the last two games: Matt Cain and Jason Schmidt, possibly in his Giants finale. The Phillies, who already miss Roger Clemens in Monday's game, might luck out again if the Marlins choose not to pitch Willis in the finale.
- The Dodgers and Phillies face rivals in the final weekend who, in all likelihood, will be eliminated by then---but always play those teams hard, and will want to end on high notes. Given that both Giants manager Felipe Alou and Marlins skipper Joe Girardi are rumored to be on the way out of town, their charges might want to send them out in style as well.
- The Padres are 9-9 combined against their remaining opponents this year. The Phillies are 23-14. The Dodgers are 22-10.
Here's a team-by-team look at games left and pitching matchups.
82-73, wild card leader
Vs. Hou: 4-1
Vs. Was: 8-8
Vs. Fla: 11-5
Sept. 25: vs. Astros--Wolf (4-0) vs. Albers (0-2)
Sept. 26: at Nationals--Myers (12-6) vs. Ortiz (10-15)
Sept. 27: at Nationals--Hamels (9-8) vs. Astacio (5-5)
Sept. 28: at Nationals--Lieber (9-10) vs. O'Connor (3-8)
Sept. 29: at Marlins--Moyer (9-14) vs. Moehler (7-10)
Sept. 30: at Marlins--Wolf (4-0) at Olsen (12-8)
Oct. 1: at Marlins--Myers (12-6) at Willis (12-11)
83-72, NL West leader
Vs. StL: 2-1
Vs. Ari: 7-8
Sept. 25: at Cardinals--Wells (2-5) vs. Suppan (12-7)
Sept. 26: at Cardinals--Williams (10-5) vs. Carpenter (15-7)
Sept. 27: at Cardinals--Young (11-5) vs. Reyes (5-7)
Sept. 28: at Diamondbacks--Peavy (10-14) vs. Batista (11-7)
Sept. 29: at Diamondbacks-- Hensley (10-11) vs. Hernandez (12-13)
Sept. 30: at Diamondbacks-- Wells (2-5) vs. Gonzalez (2-3)
Oct. 1: at Diamondbacks---Williams (10-5) at Webb (16-7)
82-74, 1.5 GB/NL West; 0.5 GB NL Wild Card
Vs. Col: 12-4
Vs. SF: 10-6
Sept. 26: at Rockies--Maddux (13-14) vs. Jennings (9-12)
Sept. 27: at Rockies--Lowe (15-8) vs. Cook (9-14)
Sept. 28: at Rockies--Penny (16-9) vs. Kim (8-12)
Sept. 29: at Giants--Billingsley (6-4) vs. Lowry (7-10)
Sept. 30: at Giants--Kuo (1-5) vs. Cain (13-10)
Oct. 1: at Giants---Maddux (13-14) vs. Schmidt (11-8)