MLB Postseason Picture: We've got a race in the NL Central!

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It’s September, so the baseball games matter a little more. That’s why every day between now and the start of the postseason we’ll keep you updated on baseball’s postseason picture.

Just when it seemed like every division in Major League Baseball was spoken for in the last two weeks of the season, the NL Central rolls in with some much-needed chaos.

The first-plate St. Louis Cardinals lost two of three over the weekend to the third-place Milwaukee Brewers —including a nail-biting 7-6 loss on Sunday. At the same time, the Chicago Cubs swept the Pirates in Chicago.

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The result? An actual division race. The rest of the divisions in baseball are just counting down magic numbers, but the Cubs are now just two games back in the division with a weekend series looming against those Cardinals.

The Brewers, for their part, are only three back.

Here’s where the rest of the league sits, who’s getting closes to clinching, who’s getting close to elimination and what games to watch Monday.

The Cubs are now two games back in the NL Central. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)
The Cubs are now two games back in the NL Central. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Magic Number Countdown

YANKEES: The Yankees dropped the series finale in Toronto, falling to the Blue Jays 6-4. Meanwhile, in Anaheim, the Rays lost 6-4 to the Angels, which lowered the Yankees’ magic number to clinch the AL East to three.

BRAVES: Their magic number to clinch the NL East is still four after losing to the Nationals, 7-0.

ASTROS: The Astros clobbered the Royals again in Kansas City, completing the three-game sweep with a 12-3 win. Their magic number to clinch the AL West is five.

TWINS: The Twins lost to the Indians 7-5 on Sunday, but won two of three in the series to put their magic number in the AL Central at nine.

CARDINALS: Not the best weekend in St. Louis. The Cardinals dropped two of three to the Brewers, , while the Cubs swept the Pirates in Chicago. St. Louis’ magic number to clinch the NL Central is a tenuous 12.

Key Races

NL CENTRAL: As mentioned above, St. Louis has a two-game lead over the Cubs for the division lead and a three-game lead over the Brewers. The Cardinals have seven of their remaining 13 games against the Cubs too.

NL WILD CARDFour straight wins have the Cubs back in the second wild-card spot. The Brewers are one game back, but the other contenders now have a bit more distance — the Mets are four games back, the Phillies are 4.5 and the D-backs are five behind. The D-backs had lost six in a row earlier in the week and lost again Sunday to the Reds.

AL WILD CARD: This is firmly a three-team race these days. The A’s, now winners of six straight, have a 1.5 game lead for the top spot with the Rays leading the Indians for the second spot by a game and a half.

Games to Watch

• Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals (7:45 p.m. ET) — This is a massive series for both teams. The Cardinals play nothing but winning teams from here on out, while the Nationals have started coming back to the pack in the NL wild card. With the Cubs and Brewers gaining ground in both races, the urgency will be high at Busch Stadium.

• New York Mets vs. Colorado Rockies (8:40 p.m. ET) — To make a run at the postseason, the Mets will have to survive a trip to Denver. The Rockies aren’t good, but Coors Field can be an unforgiving venue for opposing teams. The pressure will be on left-handed starter Steven Matz to start the series strong.

Elimination Watch

• There were no eliminations on Sunday. Next up, the San Diego Padres have an elimination number of one. The Cincinnati Reds are close behind with an elimination number of two.

• Teams whose postseason dreams are already over: Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Angels, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates.

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