MLB Postseason Picture: Surging D-backs add sizzle to NL wild card race

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor

It’s September, so the baseball games matter a little more. That’s why every day between now and the start of the postseason we’ll keep you updated on baseball’s postseason picture.

It was easy to dismiss the Arizona Diamondbacks after they traded All-Star Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals during the offseason and ace Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline.

It was also a mistake.

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The surging Diamondbacks are MLB’s hottest team as we enter the stretch run. With Saturday’s 2-0 victory against the Cincinnati Reds, they’ve now won five in a row and 11 of 12 games overall.

In the process, they’ve steadily climbed the NL wild card standings, moving to within 3.5 games of the Washington Nationals for the top wild card and 1.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs for the second.

Their rest-of-season schedule is favorable, too. Thirteen of Arizona’s final 20 games will be against opponents currently under .500. Four of the other seven are against the inconsistent Mets.

Buckle up.

While the Diamondbacks add some sizzle in the NL, here’s a look at the complete postseason picture heading into Sunday.

Magic Number Countdown

DODGERS: They lost — again — 1-0 to the Giants. Their magic number to clinch the NL West is still four.

THE 11 CLUB: Some other teams are moving closer to single-digit territory. That includes the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves, who lowered their respective magic numbers to clinch the AL East, AL West and NL East to 11 with victories on Saturday.

THE REST: The Minnesota Twins aren’t too far behind. Their 5-3 win against the Indians knocked their magic number to clinch the AL Central to 14. The St. Louis Cardinals magic number to clinch the NL Central is 18.

Key Races

AL WILD CARD: The Rays have won nine of 10 after topping the Blue Jays, 5-3. They lead the wild card by one game over the A’s, who were 10-2 winners against Detroit. Oakland’s edge for the second wild card grew to 1.5 games over Cleveland.

NL CENTRAL: The Cardinals had a really good day. A 10-1 win in Pittsburgh, coupled with the Cubs’ 5-3 loss to the Brewers, extended their lead to 3.5 games. The Brewers are still hanging around at 6.5 games back.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are making some noise in the NL wild card. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The Arizona Diamondbacks are making some noise in the NL wild card. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Games to Watch

• Cubs at Brewers (2:10 p.m. ET) — The Cubs are fighting multiple battles on multiple fronts. The division title is still the main goal, and that's well within reach. As is the top wild card spot. But with Arizona catching up and Javier Baez going down to an injury, they need to bounce back on Sunday.

• Yankees at Red Sox (8:08 p.m. ET) — The Yankees and Red Sox get the primetime spotlight once again. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, most of their fans will likely be watching the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots' season opener. It's not great scheduling by MLB, but it's still an intriguing game as New York battles for MLB's best record and Boston battles just to stay alive.

Elimination Watch

• We say goodbye to the Chicago White Sox, who were eliminated after falling to the Angels, 8-7. It wasn’t their year, but the future still looks bright on the southside.

• The Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels are next in line with an elimination number of four. The Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates are close behind with an elimination number of seven.

• Teams whose postseason dreams were already ended: Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins.

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