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MLB standings: What NL playoff picture looks like heading into weekend

We take a look at the playoff picture in the National League and how the schedule could impact the division and wild card races.

Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates with Ozzie Albies #1 after hitting a two-run home run off Tyler Clippard #36 of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning at Chase Field on September 22, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Only two weekends remain in Major League Baseball’s regular season, but there is still a lot to be decided. Here is a rundown of what lies directly ahead for every contending team in each National League division and the Wild Card.

NL East breakdown

Atlanta Braves: 82-72
Philadelphia Phillies: 81-74, 1.5 GB
New York Mets: 73-81, 9.0 GB

Update, Saturday PM — The Braves and Phillies both won, so the standings remain the same.

Update, Saturday AM — The Phillies picked up a half game on the Braves since Friday and have two games against the Pirates this weekend. The next series against the Braves will likely decide the division and we could see the two teams tied or Phillies ahead by the end of the weekend.

The Phillies have stayed alive by winning seven of their past 10 games. They have beat up on some of the worst teams in baseball during that stretch, and that could continue this weekend as they will host a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Meanwhile, the Braves will continue their road trip out west, where they have won four of their past five games. They will battle the struggling San Diego Padres for three games this weekend. Well, three and a half, really; the teams will finish a previously suspended game on Friday, beginning in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The New York Mets are technically alive, but when one of your star players admit that the team has “collapsed,” elimination is only a matter of time.

If both the Phillies and the Braves continue their winning ways this weekend, this division will be decided when these teams meet for three games in Atlanta next week.

NL Central breakdown

Milwaukee Brewers: 93-62
St. Louis Cardinals: 86-69, 7.0 GB

The Brewers clinched a playoff spot earlier this week and they will soon celebrate their first division crown since 2011. They will host the Mets for three games this weekend while the Cardinals will head to Wrigley Field for a four-game set against their longtime rival, the Chicago Cubs.

NL West breakdown

San Francisco Giants: 100-54
Los Angeles Dodgers: 99-56, 1.0 GB

Update — The Giants and Dodgers both won on Friday, so things didn’t change in the standings. San Fran is the first team to 100 wins this season, which I doubt anybody saw coming before the season started.

This race deserves to come down to the final day of the season. The Giants keep subverting expectations every day they remain atop the division and stay ahead of the reigning champs.

For this weekend, the schedule is certainly in the Dodgers’ favor. Both teams will be on the road, but L.A. will see the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks, a team they have beaten 14 out of 16 games this season. Meanwhile, the Giants will head to Coors Field for three games versus the Rockies. The Giants are 12-4 against Colorado this year, but the Rockies’ 46-29 record at home is the third-best mark in the NL.

NL Wild Card update

Los Angeles Dodgers: 99-55 +14.0
St. Louis Cardinals: 85-69
Philadelphia Phillies: 80-74, 5.0 GB
Cincinnati Reds: 79-75, 6.0 GB
San Diego Padres: 78-76, 7.0 GB

Whichever team doesn’t win the NL West will, one, be disappointed and, two, host the Wild Card game. The Cardinals, buoyed by their current 12-game winning streak — their longest since 1982 — are sitting pretty for that second Wild Card. The Phillies are more focused on the Braves than any of the teams here.

The Reds looked like the favorite for that second spot about a month ago, but they have lost 16 of 23 games since Aug. 28. That stretch included series losses to also-ran teams such as the Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. They will face another sub-.500 team in the Washington Nationals this weekend. Of course, Cincy dropped the first game of that four-game series on Thursday, 3-2.

The Padres’ sudden fall from grace is one of the more compelling stories of this season and will undoubtedly lead to major changes during the winter. They could be formally eliminated from playoff contention this weekend versus the Braves.