Brewers playoff primer: A weekend of postseason positioning
The Milwaukee Brewers are in the playoffs for a second straight season. The question now is, when and where will they begin their postseason play?
With three games remaining, there’s a few scenarios still on the table for the Brewers:
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL CHAMPION
After beating Cincinnati on Thursday, the Brewers are just one game behind St. Louis for the division lead. The simple version is to overtake the Cardinals and then sit back and wait for your opponent in the NLDS.
If the Brewers and Cardinals finish in a tie, there would be a Game No. 163 (yup, for a second straight year) on Monday. Because St. Louis had the better season record against Milwaukee, the Cardinals would host the extra game. Win that, win the division. Lose and …
FIRST WILD-CARD SPOT
The Brewers are one-half game behind Washington, which plays Thursday afternoon. So, by the end of the day the two teams will either be tied for Milwaukee will be one game back.
If the Brewers end up tied with the Nationals, Milwaukee would earn the top wild-card spot and host Tuesday’s win-or-go-home playoff as the Brewers won the season series over Washington.
If the Brewers lose to St. Louis in Game No. 163, MLB has said that extra game will not count in determining playoff positioning (a loss would give Milwaukee a worse record), thus they would win the top wild-card spot (again, by virtue of better head-to-head vs. Washington).
SECOND WILD-CARD SPOT
Pretty simple: If Milwaukee doesn’t win the division and finishes with a worse record than Washington, the Brewers are on the road for Tuesday’s wild-card game.
The Nationals also could end the year with a better record than both St. Louis and Milwaukee, leaving the loser of a Game 163 as the road team Tuesday.
Here’s a look at the final three games for Milwaukee, St. Louis and Washington. Probable pitchers listed are those who are tentatively scheduled. Things are obviously in flux for each team as the standings and situations change.
Upcoming Brewers games (all televised by FOX Sports Wisconsin)
Saturday, Sept. 28 at Rockies, 7 p.m. – Brandon Woodruff (11-3, 3.62) vs. Antonio Senzatela (10-11, 6.90)
Sunday, Sept. 29 at Rockies, 2 p.m. – Adrian Houser (6-7, 3.86) vs. TBD
Milwaukee gets to close out its season in Colorado, which resides in last place in the NL West. The Rockies have been atrocious in the second half (24-45, .348 entering Thursday). Colorado does have a winning record at home, however (40-38). The teams split a four-game series in Milwaukee in late April-early May.
The Rockies’ scheduled pitcher for Sunday had been Jeff Hoffman, but he has a knee injury and is not expected to pitch again in 2019. It might not matter who starts. Colorado’s team ERA is 5.58 and several of their pitchers with sub-5.00 ERAs are on the injured list (Scott Oberg, 2.25; Jon Gray, 3.84; German Marquez, 4.76).
It will be interesting to see how Craig Counsell uses his pitching staff, especially Saturday and Sunday if the Brewers keep winning, with potential games on Monday and/or Tuesday. But with an expanded roster, we’d expect, as usual, a lot of work from the bullpen.
Upcoming Cardinals games
Saturday, Sept. 28 vs. Cubs, 6:15 p.m.: Miles Mikolas (9-14, 4.16) vs. Yu Darvish (6-8, 3.98)
Sunday, Sept. 29 vs. Cubs, 2:15 p.m.: Adam Wainwright (14-9, 3.98) vs. Kyle Hendricks (11-10, 3.46)
St. Louis is in a good spot in the home stretch.
The Cardinals have Wainwright, who has a 1.69 ERA in five September starts and a 2.08 ERA in 15 home starts, in a potential big game Sunday. And if a Game 163 is needed, ace Jack Flaherty (10-8. 2.85) is due up.
The Cardinals also get to face the reeling Cubs, who have lost eight straight entering Thursday’s play, including a four-game sweep at home vs. St. Louis last week. Chicago’s scheduled Sunday starter, Hendricks, is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA vs. St. Louis this year. However, he has a 5.02 ERA on the road in 2019 (which does include seven shutout innings at Busch Stadium).
Upcoming Nationals games
Washington has a disadvantage, facing a Cleveland team which is still fighting for a playoff spot (entering Thursday, the Indians were 1 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild card). The Indians haven’t folded despite losing out on the AL Central. They are 14-8 in September (entering Thursday) and have a 44-33 road record.
But the Nationals also have an advantage in that they know they are going to be a wild card. There’s no chance of a division title. They will be playing Tuesday. With that in mind, if home field is still attainable, will Scherzer still be used Sunday or saved for the wild-card game? If he’s used, expect Stephen Strasburg to get the start … but perhaps Scherzer could be used for an inning? Something to monitor.
Washington is 46-31 at home this year. The Nationals and Indians have not played in 2019.