As it turns out, 162 games was not enough to decide much of anything in the National League. While the American League playoffs have basically been set for weeks now, two National League divisions are still up for grabs after Sunday’s games. Two teams are tied atop the NL Central and the NL West, meaning for the first time in NL history two tiebreak games are necessary to set the postseason schedule.
The Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs both won on Saturday, meaning they will play for the NL Central crown in Chicago at 1 p.m. on Monday. The Dodgers, meanwhile, will host the Colorado Rockies after the two also ended the season knotted atop the division on Sunday. All four teams are in the postseason, which officially gets underway on Tuesday with the National League Wild Card game. But who plays in that game is entirely up to what happens in a pair of Game 163s.
The losers will be relegated to the Wild Card game, while the winners will be crowned division champions and get a few more days off before the best-of-five postseason starts later in the week.
Not only does the winner of Cubs/Brewers on Monday avoid the Wild Card, they will also play the winner of the Wild Card game and have home field advantage throughout the NL postseason. That means either the Cubs or the Brewers could meet in the postseason after Monday’s game, but the loser would have a bit tougher journey to that matchup and will have one fewer home game in the series.
The games also complicate Christian Yelich’s hunt for the NL’s first Triple Crown winner since 1935. The Brewers slugger leads the National League in batting average and is one home run behind Nolan Arenado for the league lead. He’s also two RBIs behind Chicago’s Javier Baez for the league lead in that stat category. It’s entirely possible Yelich has a huge game and can top all three categories and win the Triple Crown. Baez, of course, plays a Game 163 on Monday as well, so that number could be even harder to reach.
Meanwhile, the winner of Dodgers/Rockies will face the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. Atlanta is the only NL team not playing on Monday, as they sit and wait for their opponent. The winner of the 4 p.m. tiebreak matchup will host the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday, while the loser will be on the road in the NL Wild Card game against whichever team loses in Chicago on Monday afternoon.
What’s clear here is that there’s plenty left to decide in the National League, and though everyone involved is playing postseason baseball later this week the stakes are still extremely high. The difference between playing in a 5-game series and getting some rest compared to enduring the stress — and roster strain — of a 1-game playoff, especially after an extra game, is huge. It should make for some frantic baseball, and a really fun Monday in sports.