MILWAUKEE — Win and you're in.
That's pretty much where things stand for the Milwaukee Brewers, who have a chance to clinch a franchise-record third consecutive postseason appearance this weekend when they take on the Cardinals in St. Louis.
After dropping two of three to the Reds in Cincinnati to start their road trip, the Brewers come into St. Louis a game back of the Cardinals for second place — and a playoff berth — in the National League Central and also a game back, along with the Phillies, of the Reds and Giants for the NL Wild Card berths.
With so many teams in the mix and so many possible scenarios, the Brewers' easiest path into the playoffs is to simply beat the Cardinals, a team that is limping into the series with a rash of injuries and running on fumes after playing 25 games in 20 days.
The Brewers split two doubleheaders and took three of five games from the Cardinals last week at Miller Park. The teams will play another doubleheader on Friday, making up the last of three games that were postponed earlier this season after a COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak among the Cardinals' traveling party.
To lock in a postseason berth, the Brewers will likely need to at least match that result this weekend.
"I think it's safe to say we have to win at least three (games) and probably four to assure getting in," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Here's a look at the National League playoff picture, starting with a primer on the expanded postseason format for 2020:
Eight teams from each league will qualify for the postseason. As in previous years, the three divisional champions from each league, as well as two wild card teams qualify. In addition, under a format adopted by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association, the three runners-up in each division will also make the playoff field, with the wild cards in each league being awarded to the teams with the highest winning percentage, regardless of division.
The division winners will earn the top three seeds in each league, by order of winning percentage. Seeds 4-6 will go to the second-place teams while the wild cards will get the last two spots.
Instead of the traditional winner-take-all Wild Card game of years past, all teams will open the playoffs with a three-game series. The top four seeds will host all three games in their home stadiums. The Division Series, League Championship Series and World Series will follow their traditional five- and seven-game formats but will be held at neutral sites this year, with American League games taking place at Petco Park in San Diego and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The National League will use two Texas stadiums: Minute Maid Park in Houston and Globe Life Field, the Rangers' new park in Arlington, which will also host the World Series.
Another big change to this year's postseason will be the elimination of days off through the first three rounds. There will still be off-days during the World Series between games three and four and five and six, as in years past, but all other series will be played in three, five and seven consecutive days.
In the American League, the Wild Card round will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 29 with the NL Wild Card series getting underway on Wednesday, Sept. 30. The AL Division Series will start on Monday, Oct. 5 and the NLDS gets underway Tuesday, Oct. 6 and the League Championship Series will start on Sunday, Oct. 11 (ALCS) and Monday, Oct. 12.
Game 1 of the 116th World Series will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 20.
So, where do the Brewers stand? Here's how the National League playoff race looks going into today's games.
(Through games Wednesday)
1. x-Cubs | 32 23 .582 ----
2. Cardinals | 27 26 .519 -3.5
3. Reds | 29 28 .519 -4.5 -3.5
4. BREWERS | 27 28 .491 -4.5
5. e-Pirates-e | 17 39 .304 -15
x-Clinched playoff berth
NL Wild Card standings:
1. Reds | 29 28 .509 ----
2. Giants | 28 27 .509 ----
3. Phillies | 28 29 .491 -0.5
4. Brewers | 27 28 .491 -0.5
1. xyz-Dodgers (W-1)
2. Braves (E-1)
3. x-Cubs (C-1)
4. x-Padres (W-2)
5. Cardinals (C-2)
6. Marlins (E-2)
7. Reds (WC-1)
8. Giants (WC-2)
x-Clinched playoff berth
y-Clinched division championship
z-Clinched No. 1 seed
1. Dodgers vs. (8) Giants
2. Braves vs. (7) Reds
3. Cubs vs. (6) Marlins
4. Padres vs. (5) Cardinals
THURSDAY, SEPT. 24
Rockies at Giants, 2:45 p.m.
Marlins at Braves, 6:10 p.m.
Brewers at Cardinals, 7:15 p.m.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 25
Brewers vs. Cardinals, 4:15 p.m. (DH)
Phillies at Rays, 5:40 p.m.
Marlins at Yankees, 6:05 p.m.
Padres vs. Giants, 6:10 p.m. (DH)
Reds at Twins, 7:10 p.m.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 26
Marlins at Yankees, 12:05 p.m.
Phillies at Rays, 6:05 p.m.
Brewers at Cardinals, 6:15 p.m.
Reds at Twins, 6:10 p.m.
Padres at Giants, 8:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 27
Padres at Giants, 2:05 p.m.
Marlins at Yankees, 2:05 p.m.
Reds at Twins, 2:10 p.m.
Phillies at Rays, 2:10 p.m.
Brewers at Cardinals, 3:15 p.m.
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