Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

The Race in the NL Central (Part III)

If the St. Louis Cardinals have aspirations of making a run at the postseason, their opportunity begins tonight. They begin a 3-game series against the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park this evening. Heading into tonight's action, the Brewers lead the National League Central by 10 1/2 games over the second place Cardinals. The Brewers and Cardinals have six head-to-head games remaining this season (August 30-September 1 at Miller Park, and September 5-7 at Busch Stadium).

Tonight, the Brewers send Shaun Marcum (11-4, 3.38 ERA) to the mound. The Cardinals counter with Edwin Jackson (10-9, 3.94 ERA). Jackson was picked up during a mid-season trade with the Chicago White Sox.

During the month of August, the Brewers seized control of the division. They are sitting comfortably atop the NL Central and have a Magic Number of 18. Again, that means any combination of Brewers wins and Cardinals losses equaling 18 will clinch a playoff spot for Milwaukee. The Brewers are riding a 3-game winning streak, and are 8-2 during their last 10 games. This season, they possess the best win-loss record at home in all of Major League Baseball. At Miller Park this season, the Brewers are currently 50-16 under their retractable roof.

As of late, the Cardinals have all but dropped out of contention. While they just concluded a 4-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates and with three wins, the Cardinals lost all three games to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the prior series. During their last series against the Brewers (August 9-11), the Cardinals lost two of three.

Once involved in the NL Central race, the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates dropped significantly off the pace. The Reds sit 13 1/2 games out of first, and the Pirates are 18 1/2 back. While the Houston Astros are already eliminated from postseason play, the Chicago Cubs are getting dangerously close. Any combination totaling five Brewers wins and Cubs losses means the season is mathematically over for the north siders.

Today, Baseball Prospectus updated their playoff odds. They give the Milwaukee Brewers a 99.9% chance to win the NL Central. According to today's numbers, the St. Louis Cardinals have a 0.1% chance to win the NL Central, and a 0.4% chance to win the NL wild card.

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