NL West playoff possibilities explained as Dodgers, Giants enter homestretch
The Dodgers and Giants both clinched playoff berths this week, but the drama is far from over as their epic race for the NL West title heads into its final frenetic weeks.
Both teams are on pace to surpass 100 wins and whichever team wins the West figures to earn the top seed for the National League playoffs and the home-field advantage that comes with it. The runner-up could finish with the most victories of any non-division winner in MLB history (the 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers and 1909 Chicago Cubs each won 104 games) but will still find itself hosting the win-or-go-home NL wild card game next month.
The Dodgers (94-53) completed a 6-0 homestand with a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night and finally gained a game on the Giants (95-51), who saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end with a 9-6 loss to the San Diego Padres.
The Dodgers, who are 31-10 since the July 31 trade deadline and their monumental trade for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, woke up Thursday 1½ games behind their rivals. The Giants host the Padres in a series finale Thursday afternoon (12:45 p.m., MLB Network), while the Dodgers are off (flying to Cincinnati), so the standings will change by a half-game again today.
Only 10 second-place teams have ever won 100-plus games, and a 100-win team has appeared in a wild-card game just once since the current playoff format was adopted nine years ago (the 100-win New York Yankees defeated the 97-win Oakland A’s in 2018). This year’s NL West runner-up will have a substantially better record than whoever it hosts in the wild card game (and yes, the Dodgers’ pitching staff might be better equipped for a wild card game), but that wouldn’t limit the anxiety of that nine-inning stress test.
The pressure is on and neither the Dodgers nor the Giants have been blinking much. Here’s a closer look at what’s left and what looms after that.
THE DEAD-HEAT SCENARIO
The Giants won the season series, 10-9, so if a Game 163 becomes necessary to decide the division title it will be played on Monday, Oct. 4 … in San Francisco. The loser of that game would then host the NL wild card game on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Any tiebreaker games would be broadcast by ESPN.
The best-of-five NL Division Series are both scheduled to begin on Friday, Oct. 8, with the top two seeds having home-field advantage in the 2-2-1 format. So, if the NL West runner-up survives the randomness that could unfold in the wild card game, it would find itself squaring off with its longtime rival just 48 hours later.
The other NLDS will pit the No. 2 and 3 seeds, so NL Central leader Milwaukee would host the NL East champ.
The NL wild card game and all NLDS and NLCS games will be broadcast by TBS.
DODGERS REMAINING SCHEDULE (15 games)
Friday-Sunday – at Cincinnati (3)
Sept. 21-23 – at Colorado (3)
Sept. 24-26 – at Arizona (3)
Sept. 28-30 – vs. San Diego (3)
Oct. 1-3 – vs. Milwaukee (3)
GIANTS REMAINING SCHEDULE (16 games)
Today (Thursday) – vs. San Diego
Friday-Sunday – vs. Atlanta (3)
Sept. 21-23 – at San Diego (3)
Sept. 24-26 – at Colorado (3)
Sept. 28-30 – vs. Arizona (3)
Oct. 1-3 – vs. San Diego (3)