Throughout the year, the Brewers have had to fight off every team in the division except the St. Louis Cardinals to retain their top spot. The Pittsburgh Pirates seized the top spot in May before going on a tragic skid out of playoff contention in June. The Cincinnati Reds were the next title contenders, after calling up Elly De La Cruz and riding some impressive momentum in July, but the Brewers pulled through and have been at the top of the division since early August, but not by much.
The Looming Cubs Threat
After going 18-9 in August, the Cubs made up for lost time to pull into second place, timing their surge with the decline of the Reds. Although they're currently three games behind, what would happen if Chicago manages to end up with the same number of wins as the Brewers? Luckily, MLB has a five-step system to break ties.
In the event that two teams are tied for the division lead, the team that beats the other more often will be declared the champion. Interestingly, the Brewers and Cubs could not be closer head-to-head, with each team winning five of the 10 total games played so far this season. As we all well know by now, they will face each other three more times in the last series of the season. Whichever team wins that series will claim the tiebreaker between the two, in the process.
What makes this matchup even more intriguing is how well the Cubs have been performing in the second half of the season, posting a .787 team OPS (7th in MLB) and a 4.12 team ERA (9th in MLB). In comparison, the Brewers pose a paltry offensive threat, posting a .702 OPS (26th in MLB) after the break and largely depending on their pitching to get them through tough matchups. The fate of the NL Central depends on whether the Brewers can bank enough of a lead for this series to be inconsequential, or else take care of business at home to close things out.
What About The Wild Card?
Since the Cubs are currently one of the teams taking a Wild Card spot, the two other teams where a tiebreaker might come into play to affect seeding would be the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Currently one game behind the Crew in the theoretical Wild Card table, the Phillies have bounced back from a rough spring to be the top actual NL Wild Card club. Unfortunately for them, the Brewers went 4-2 in games against Philadelphia, so if they do end up with the same number of wins, the Brewers will take the top Wild Card spot and host the second Wild Card team (presumably, the Phillies themselves) in the first round of the postseason.
Not far behind are the Arizona Diamondbacks, who currently have 74 wins. If they manage to make up the difference, the Brewers would lose the tiebreaker, since they went 2-4 in matchups against them this season. After a lukewarm July and August that saw them combine for 20-31, they’re riding a downward trend and it’s unlikely they’ll manage to end up with the same number of wins as Milwaukee. On the other hand, they have taken the first two of seven games against the Cubs here in September, and are tightening the entire Wild Card picture.
Should the Cubs, Brewers and Phillies (or Diamondbacks, or both) all collide at the same final wins total, by the way, the division title would be resolved first. That just reinforces the importance of winning the division, and particularly of that final series at American Family Field. If the Brewers win that series, they'll be in excellent shape. That said, while there won't be a web of potential extra games to navigate, things could still get plenty chaotic if the Crew leave the door open with their play over the final three weeks.
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