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MLB Playoff Picture Update: The NL Wildcard race condenses

And Ryan Braun hits a huge grand slam

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

American League East

As we’ve been saying in this space basically since this feature started on September 1, it’s basically just a formality as far as the Yankees taking this division. It’s a matter of when, not if. That being said, they could be making it easier on themselves to take this. They were up in Canada this weekend to take on the Blue Jays, and they ended up dropping two of three with Randal Grichuk smashing two homers in Sunday’s win for the Jays. New York did get some help, though, as Tampa Bay couldn’t take advantage and extend this race a bit. The Rays dropped a two-run game themselves to the Angels. So, the Yankees’ lead in the division stayed steady at nine games with their magic number dropping to three.

American League Central

On Saturday, the Twins made a huge move in this division. They started the day leading the Indians by 3.5 games with a doubleheader on the road in Cleveland. It was a massive swingpoint in the division, and Minnesota took both games. That was a big statement, but an even bigger one would be finishing the sweep on Sunday. They couldn’t get that done, though. Roberto Pérez hit a huge three-run homer and Cleveland avoided the sweep with a 7-5 win. Minnesota’s lead in the division fell to 4.5 games with their magic number sticking at nine.

American League West

The Astros, well, they’re ridiculous. Like any other baseball team they will have their rough stretches but even with other elite teams around the league Houston is probably favorite to win it all right now. They are creeping in on a division championship and continued that quest on Sunday with a blowout, 12-3 victory over the Royals. The A’s, to their credit, kept charging themselves and dominated in a 6-1 win over the Rangers. With all of that, Houston still leads the West by 7.5 games and have a magic number of five to clinch.

American League Wildcard

This race became a little more interesting with the Rays losing and Indians winning on Sunday. The A’s did stay in the top spot and opened up a 1.5-game advantage over Tampa Bay there, but Cleveland pulled back to within 1.5 games themselves for the second spot.

National League East

The Braves had an opportunity to put themselves just two days away from clinching the division if they could get a win over the Nationals on Sunday. Washington knows the division is out of reach, but they are of course still fighting in a competitive wildcard race. They got the better of Atlanta in this one in a noncompetitive game. Washington cruised to a 7-0 win, knocking the Braves’ lead in the division down to 9.5 games and keeping their magic number at four.

National League Central

The game of the day on Sunday featured two teams fighting for this race, with the rubber match between the Cardinals and Brewers taking place in St. Louis. The Cardinals were up by a run heading into the top of the ninth, and were one strike away from finishing off the win. Ryan Braun had other ideas, though, blasting a go-ahead grand slam that would eventually lead to a Brewers win. Meanwhile, the Cubs were also able to take advantage of the Cardinals loss, continuing their domination of the Pirates with yet another blowout victory. They did, however, lose Anthony Rizzo in that win. So, the Cardinals still lead this division but they are only up two games on the Cubs and three games on the Brewers. Their magic number is 12.

National League West

The Dodgers have clinched this division.

National League Wildcard

Alright, so we know the top teams took care of business on Sunday. The Nationals, Cubs and Brewers each picked up wins to keep pace with each other. With those victories, they separated themselves from the pack a bit as the teams chasing them couldn’t do the same. As we know, the Phillies dropped one to the Red Sox as Boston finished a quick two-game sweep thanks to a two-homer game from Christian Vázquez. The Mets, meanwhile, took a 2-1 lead into the eighth but allowed a run in each of the final two innings and couldn’t finish off the NL’s best team. Finally, the Diamondbacks gave up two homers to Eugenio Suárez and couldn’t get the bats going in their loss to the Reds. With all of that, the Nationals still lead the Cubs by 1.5 games, and Chicago leads the Brewers by a game. Behind them, the Mets are four back, the Phillies are 4.5 back and the Diamondbacks are 5.5 back. This is quickly turning into a three-team race.