5 remaining series with massive playoff implications

by
Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY Sports

With less than four weeks remaining in the regular season, the postseason picture is becoming more and more clear.

A single slipup in a close contest could prove to be the difference between winning a division title, settling for a wild-card game on the road, or even missing the playoffs altogether.

With that in mind, here are five mouthwatering matchups to watch down the stretch - all of which could have massive implications for October baseball.

Dodgers at Nationals (Sept. 15-17)

Nationals lead season series 2-1

Boy, the Los Angeles Dodgers suddenly become painstakingly bad. Once on pace to tackle the all-time wins record, Los Angeles is now mired in a 10-game losing streak, matching its worst-ever stretch since the team moved to California. The current situation couldn't be any more different for the Washington Nationals, who are on cloud nine after clinching another NL East title Sunday.

The upcoming three-game set between these teams will be about more than just contrasting fortunes, however. Thanks to the Dodgers' lengthy slide, Washington has crept within four games of their MLB-best record. This series could ultimately determine home-field advantage throughout the postseason.


Twins at Yankees (Sept. 18-20)

Twins lead season series 2-1

After a light homestand this week where they host the lowly San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays, the Minnesota Twins hit the road for three decisive series, though it's the first of those - against the New York Yankees - that should most affect the playoff picture.

The American League wild-card race is not for the claustrophobic, with eight sides separated by just seven games. The Yankees and Twins currently own the top two spots, as New York leads by just 3.5. This series may not just determine if the Twins make the playoffs at all (more on that below), but also which team hosts the elimination game if they meet again.

Indians at Angels (Sept. 19-21)

Indians lead season series 3-0

Trailing the Twins by a single game for the second wild-card spot, the Los Angeles Angels can't afford to miss out on the postseason again after going all-in at the trade deadline by landing Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips. Not to mention, it would almost be a crime against baseball to once again have Mike Trout miss the postseason.

The Cleveland Indians, though, are looking at things from a much different perspective. Thanks to their franchise-record 18-game win streak, they now own the best record in the AL over the Houston Astros and hope to keep it that way for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Cubs at Brewers (Sept. 21-23)

Brewers lead season series 8-7

The Chicago Cubs are reeling after being swept at home by the Milwaukee Brewers, a result that allowed both Milwaukee and the St. Louis Cardinals to creep within two games of the NL Central lead. The Cubs will have the chance to rectify that when they visit Miller Park next week for a significant four-game set.

This series isn't just about retribution, though. With the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies holding firm in the wild-card race, a division title might be the only doorway into the postseason for the Cubs, Brewers, and Cards.

Cubs at Cardinals (Sept. 25-28)

Cubs lead season series 8-4

Needless to say, the Cubs have an eventful rest of September.

After looking for revenge against the Brewers, the schedule doesn't do Chicago any favors as the team immediately plays four on the road against St. Louis.

The Route 66 rivalry has featured plenty of tight division races down the final stretch, and it should again in 2017, as the penultimate season series for both clubs could decide who wears the NL Central crown, and who watches the postseason from home.

(Photos courtesy Action Images)