With just over a month left in the MLB regular season the contenders have begun to separate themselves from the pretenders. How the contenders play down the stretch will have a lot to do with whether or not they end up making the playoffs, but who they play and where they play them will also have an impact on the race.
Let’s take a look at the remaining schedules of each team in playoff contention in the National League as of Saturday August 29.
New York Mets: The Mets have a comfortable 6.5 game lead over the 2nd place Washington Nationals. The Mets and Nationals will meet six more times this season, with three games in Washington and then three games in New York on the final weekend of the regular season. If the Mets cannot keep a comfortable lead in the division the final weekend of the season should provide some high drama in New York. The Mets have 17 games remaining at home and other than the Nationals series the only other home games against above .500 teams are an interleague series against the American League wildcard leading New York Yankees. The Mets also have 17 road games left, but only 6 after September 13th, so the back end of the schedule is home friendly. Of the Mets 17 road games only the three games against the Nationals are against a team in contention.
Washington Nationals: They have an uphill battle if they are going to catch the Mets. A wildcard spot seems unlikely for the Nationals, who if they miss the playoffs, would have had one of the most disappointing seasons in team history after the high expectations that were set before the season. They are 9 games out of a wildcard spot. The Nationals have 20 home games remaining and only the games against the Mets are against a team over .500, however they do play 3 home games against the Orioles who are just 1 game under .500 at the moment. They have 15 road games left, including 3 at St. Louis and their important series against the Mets to close the season, assuming the Nationals can cut into the deficit before then.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have the best record in the NL, but only have a 3.5 game lead over the Pirates in the standings. The Cardinals have 18 road games left, 8 of which are against above .500 teams. This includes their current series against the San Francisco Giants. They also play the two teams directly behind them in the standings on the road for three games each, the Pirates and the Cubs. The home schedule for the Cardinals includes 16 games, including nine straight against teams fighting for the playoffs, the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs. So it will be a tough stretch run for the Cardinals, but they are playing well enough to at least grab a wild card spot if they cannot hold on to the division lead.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are looking like a solid bet to grab a wild card spot, even if they cannot catch the Cardinals. They currently have a 9.5 game lead for a wildcard spot. They have 15 home games left, including 3 against the Cardinals and 3 against the Cubs, their remaining home games are against teams below .500. The road schedule has 19 games remaining, 9 of which are against teams against above .500 including a trip to the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers. They also have 3 road games against the Cardinals and three against the Cubs.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs have a 4.5 game lead for the 2nd wildcard spot over the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs have 18 road games left including 2 more against the Dodgers in a series that is currently ongoing. They also have to play 3 against the Pirates and three against the Cardinals, both teams that are currently ahead of the Cubs in the standings. The Cubs last six games are on the road, but they are all against teams under .500, so they should be able to close out strong.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers currently have a 2.5 game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. They have 18 homes games left, including 2 more against the Cubs this weekend, followed by three against the San Francisco Giants. They must also play the Pirates at home in a three game series. They have 17 road games left including a critical four game series at the end of September against the Giants that could determine which teams wins the NL West. They also have a tough three game series away at the Angels in September. However, overall it is not a terrible set up for the Dodgers, who will have 16 of their final 23 games against teams under .500.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants are 2.5 behind the Dodgers in the NL West and 4.5 behind the Cubs for the second National League Wild Card spot. The Giants have 18 home games remaining and other then 2 games this weekend against St. Louis and the four in late September against the Dodgers they are all against teams under .500. They have 16 road games left and only the three against the Dodgers are against teams above .500. 25 of their last 29 games are against teams under .500 and the other four are against the Dodgers, so the Giants are in a prime position to catch the Dodgers or Cubs and secure a playoff berth.