MLB postseason picture: Streaking Dodgers shake up NL West and Wild Card standings

The Los Angeles Dodgers had another productive day Saturday, and we’re not just talking about the 17 runs they scored in their dismantling of the St. Louis Cardinals.

With their lopsided victory at Busch Stadium, Los Angeles extended its winning streak to four games while making huge progress in the standings. First, the Dodgers passed St. Louis for the NL’s second Wild Card spot. Later on, they also passed the Colorado Rockies for first place in the NL West after Colorado lost again to the San Francisco Giants.

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Obviously, leading the division is a much bigger deal for the Dodgers. When all’s said and done, playoff teams want to avoid the do-or-die Wild-Card game. But the success they’ve had this weekend guarantees they’ll at least finish the weekend tied for a wild card position. That’s a big improvement from where they started the week.

The last two Dodgers victories have been sparked by Yasiel Puig. The up and down outfielder slugged two homers in Friday’s win, and then followed that up with three home runs and seven RBI on Saturday.

Yasiel Puig's hot streak has helped the Dodgers reclaim first place in the NL West. (AP)
Yasiel Puig’s hot streak has helped the Dodgers reclaim first place in the NL West. (AP)

As a result of Saturday’s shifts in the standings, the Dodgers will enter Sunday with a half-game lead over the Rockies and four-game edge on the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West. The Rockies now own the second NL Wild Card spot with a half-game lead over St. Louis. The Milwaukee Brewers have a three-game edge for the top NL Wild Card.

The state of MLB’s playoff races

• NL Central: One run was all the Chicago Cubs needed to pad their division lead. They topped the Cincinnati Reds 1-0. Unfortunately for the Brewers, their one run wasn’t enough. They lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 and are now 2.5 games out of first place.

• NL East: The Atlanta Braves lost 7-1 to the Washington Nationals, snapping a six-game winning streak. The Philadelphia Phillies took advantage of the Braves rare slip up, edging the Miami Marlins 5-4 at Citizens Bank Park. Atlanta’s lead narrows to five games.

• AL West: The Houston Astros regained the game they lost to the Oakland Athletics on Friday. Houston came up with a big 10-4 win against the D-backs. The A’s fell to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-5, which extended Houston’s division lead back to 3.5 games.

• AL Wild Card: No movement to report atop the AL Wild Card. The New York Yankees maintain a 1.5 game lead over the A’s for the top spot despite losing 8-7 to the Toronto Blue Jays. The A’s loss narrowed their lead for the second spot to eight games.

Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel locked down his 41st save to help his squad the division lead. (AP)
Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel locked down his 41st save to help his squad the division lead. (AP)

Magic Number Watch

• Boston Red Sox — 4: After losing the series opener to the New York Mets, the Red Sox bounced back with a 5-3 victory Saturday to give them 102 wins on the season. That win, coupled with the Yankees loss to Toronto, lowered Boston’s Magic Number to four.

Already clinched

• Cleveland Indians: The Indians became the first team to clinch their division, winning the AL Central with a dominant 15-0 victory. They joined the Red Sox as the only two teams to wrap up a playoff berth.

If the playoff started tomorrow

Wild-card games: A’s at Yankees; Rockies at Brewers

ALDS: Indians vs. Astros; Wild-card winner vs. Red Sox

NLDS: Dodgers vs. Braves; Wild-card winner vs. Cubs

Elimination Watch

The Indians division clincher officially eliminated the Minnesota Twins from postseason contention. Minnesota is now the 11th to be knocked out, joining the Orioles, Royals, White Sox, Tigers, Blue Jays, Rangers, Padres, Reds, Marlins and Angels. The Mets and Giants are next in line with elimination numbers of three.

Sunday’s must-see game

It’s tough to pick just one game from Sunday’s slate, so we’ll actually give you three to keep a close eye on. One includes the Mets, but that’s only because NL Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom (8-9, 1.71) is facing the Red Sox lineup and Chris Sale (12-4, 1.96).

In Houston, the AL West-leading Astros will send Justin Verlander (15-9, 2.72) against Zack Greinke (14-9, 3.11) and the desperate Diamondbacks.

Then in the Sunday night main event, it’s the finale of Dodgers-Cardinals. Los Angeles will go for the four-game sweep against the recently returning Adam Wainwright.

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