Who saw this coming? Yep, a team other than the Dodgers is officially the first to punch its ticket to the playoffs.
The Nationals clinched the NL East Sunday with a 3-2 win over the Phillies. During the Dodgers incredible free-fall, the Nationals quietly built a 20 game lead in their division and, on Sunday, were able to finish off a divisional race that never really saw any true challengers.
The Nationals have won the division for the fourth time in six seasons, and are basically assured of home-field in the NLDS, barring an incredible collapse and a blazing run by the Cubs.
Here’s what else is happening around the National League:
The Los Angeles Dodgers were once 91-36. They are now 92-51, following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies. That’s 15 losses in 16 games for the Dodgers, a stretch that includes a current ten-game losing streak, and even though they’re almost assured a division title, serious concerns have risen over this team’s ability to compete with likely postseason opponents.
If the Dodgers finish ahead of the Nationals from a win/loss standpoint, they’ll face the wild card game winner in the NLDS, which is likely to be either Arizona or Colorado. The D-Backs have won the last six meetings with L.A., while the Rockies just pulled their brooms on the Dodgers this weekend. This was just a silly streak a week ago — now it’s become an official concern.
The Brewers have been dealt a serious blow in their postseason push. Ace Jimmy Nelson will be out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury he suffered diving into first base during Milwaukee’s Saturday night tilt with the Cubs. Nelson’s absence leaves a void in what has still been a solid rotation. Either way, the Brewers will miss Nelson over the weeks to come.
The Dodgers cooled down, and the Diamondbacks got hot. By the middle of last week, Arizona was riding a 13-game winning streak. They did it with an incredible run that saw them leading for almost 90 consecutive innings, close to a major-league record. The bats are hot in Arizona, and it could lead to an NLDS win over the Dodgers if they keep it up at the dish.
The Reds are going to keep manager Bryan Price around for the 2018 season. Price’s option was picked up by the club this week, proving that the front office has some confidence in his ability to build a winner. Cincinnati hasn’t been to the postseason since 2013, so Price’s seat, while reserved, is still hot.