MLB Postseason Picture: Cardinals, Brewers take NL Central race down to final day

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

And then there was one.

The final day of the regular season is upon us, and unlike last season when there were two division titles left to be decided, this year we’ll have to settle for one.

The St. Louis Cardinals hold a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the top spot in the NL Central. And to be honest, both teams should feel fortunate they’re that well off.

The Cardinals come in losers of four straight games after falling 8-6 to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. The Brewers lost to the last-place Colorado Rockies, 3-2, on Trevor Story’s walk-off home run. The Brewers’ loss was more painful considering that stud closer Josh Hader allowed a game-tying home run to rookie Sam Hilliard with two outs in the ninth inning. Had Hader retired Hilliard, the division would be tied.

And if that’s not bad enough, the Brewers know Ryan Braun (calf) has already been ruled out for the season finale and Lorenzo Cain (ankle) is highly questionable as well. Not good news for a team that’s already missing its MVP, Christian Yelich.

Milwaukee will send right-hander Adrian Houser (6-7, 3.86) to the hill to face Rockies hurler Jeff Hoffman (2-6, 6.78) at 3:10 p.m. ET on Sunday. St. Louis is sending its ace, Jack Flaherty (10-8, 2.85), against the Cubs’ Derek Holland (2-4, 5.47) at 3:15 p.m.

The Cardinals only need a win or a Brewers loss to clinch the division title. The Brewers need a win and a Cardinals loss to force a tiebreaker game on Monday in St. Louis. If the Cardinals clinch the division, the Brewers will become the NL’s second wild card team.

Clinched on Saturday

NATIONALS: With their 10-7 win against the Indians, the Nationals are guaranteed to host the National League wild-card game on Tuesday, Oct. 1. They will face the Cardinals or Brewers, depending on which team falls short in the NL Central race.

ASTROS: With their 6-3 victory against the Angels, the Houston Astros have clinched home-field advantage through the entire postseason. Their 106 wins is a franchise record.

ATHLETICS: By defeating the Mariners, 1-0, the Oakland Athletics have locked up home-field advantage in the AL wild-card game. They will host the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

Previously clinched

DODGERS: The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their seventh straight NL West title on Sept. 10.

YANKEES: The New York Yankees clinched their first AL East title since 2012 on Sept. 19.

BRAVES: The Atlanta Braves clinched their second straight NL East title on Sept. 20.

TWINS: The Minnesota Twins clinched their first AL Central title since 2010 on Wednesday.

If the playoffs started today

Wild-card games: Rays at A’s in AL; Brewers or Cardinals at Nationals in NL

ALDS: wild-card winner vs. Astros; Twins vs. Yankees

NLDS: wild-card winner vs. Dodgers; Cardinals or Brewers vs. Braves

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