4 teams vying for final 2 spots in NL

September 27th, 2020

The 2020 regular season is down to its final day, yet the final two playoff spots in the National League are still up for grabs.

One contender fell out of the race Saturday, with the Mets eliminated after the first loss of a doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Nationals. But that still leaves four teams for two postseason berths: the Cardinals, Giants, Brewers and Phillies. Every game on the MLB schedule started at the 3 o'clock hour, and the victors will advance to the best-of-three Wild Card Series, although it’s possible that will not be settled until Monday.

It’s important to note that, in the case of ties, these teams’ fates would come down to mathematical tiebreakers, since there are no tiebreaker games this year. For more on that and other playoff FAQs, read here.

We'll focus on the National League since the American League field is set; the only thing to settle there is seeding. You can find AL tiebreakers here.

Here’s how the NL Wild Card tiebreaker scenarios would play out:

Current records (entering play Sunday)

Cardinals: 29-28 (1 game left vs. MIL^)

Giants: 29-30 (1 game left vs. SD)

Brewers: 29-30 (1 game left at STL)

Phillies: 28-31 (1 game left at TB)

^The Cardinals also might have to make up one or two final games in a possible doubleheader Monday at Detroit, but only if it would affect who qualifies for the postseason. More on that below.

3-way tie for final spot (29-31)

How it happens: Cardinals beat Brewers; Giants lose; Phillies win

Who gets in: Cardinals, Phillies

The Cardinals completely control their own destiny. If St. Louis beats Milwaukee on Sunday at Busch Stadium, it claims one of the final two spots. If the Giants also lose but the Phillies win, that would leave three teams tied for the eighth seed.

Because these teams have no head-to-head matchups between them, the tiebreaker goes to intradivision record. The Phillies, who are locked in at 21-19 against the NL East, would benefit here. The Brewers (19-21 vs. the Central with a loss Sunday) and Giants (18-22 vs. the West with a loss Sunday) would be out of luck. This is the only scenario in which the Phillies get into the playoff field.

3-way tie for final two spots (.500)

How it happens: Brewers beat Cardinals; Giants win

Who gets in: Brewers; second team TBD

In this scenario, the Phillies are out regardless of their result Sunday. The other three teams are tied with .500 records, but with the complication of the Cardinals having played two fewer games.

The Brewers clinch a spot in this case, due to having the intradivision record tiebreaker over the Giants (20-20 over 19-21). That leaves St. Louis and San Francisco. With a playoff spot hanging in the balance, the Cardinals would need to play Detroit on Monday, giving them two shots to win one game for a clinch. A 30th Cards victory would do the job, as they also have an intradivision tiebreaker over the Giants, with 21 wins in the bank against the NL Central entering Sunday. Only if St. Louis lost twice to Detroit would San Francisco get the final spot.

2-way tie for final spot (29-31)

How it happens: Cardinals beat Brewers; Giants and Phillies lose

Who gets in: Cardinals, Brewers

The Cardinals would clinch with a win, while the Phillies would be eliminated with a loss. The Brewers and Giants would wind up tied for the final spot, with Milwaukee having the aforementioned tiebreaker edge due to its superior intradivision record.

2-way tie for final spot

How it happens: Brewers beat Cardinals; Giants lose; Phillies win

Who gets in: Brewers, Cardinals

Despite a loss, the Cardinals would clinch without having to play on Monday. Why? If they played and lost both of those games, they would finish tied with the Giants and Phillies at 29-31. However, St. Louis owns the tiebreaker over San Francisco because of a better intradivision record. The Cardinals and Phillies would be tied in that respect, at 21-19, which means the tie would be broken based on each team’s past 20 division games. Even with the loss Sunday, the Cardinals would be 10-10 against the NL Central in that time. The Phillies are locked in at 8-12 against the NL East, so there’s no way they could pass the Cards.

No tie for final spot

How it happens: Cardinals beat Brewers; Giants win

Who gets in: Cardinals, Giants

San Francisco would finish one game ahead of Milwaukee and at least one ahead of Philadelphia, claiming the final spot.