The Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies enter the final week of the regular season immersed in a classic wrestling for the NL East title, knowing that the wild card will be insufficient for the second to finish.
They will start a crucial three-game series starting Tuesday.
Atlanta leads the division by a two-and-a-half game difference, so the Phillies will need to take at least two of three in Georgia this week to maintain a thread of possibility of finishing first. Philadelphia has held out on a five-game winning streak, but the Phillies ultimately lost to the bottom-running Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
“This is what you play for,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “We are going to have our hands full.”
Philadelphia ace Zack Wheeler will start Tuesday against Atlanta’s Charlie Morton.
“We have to get there, do our job and stay sharp from the first pitch,” Harper said. “You always go with the intention of sweeping away whoever you have to face.”
Every moment of this series will have to be savored. There aren’t many more left between teams fighting for places in the postseason.
The New York Yankees travel to Toronto, with both battling the American League wild cards. But Toronto will then face Baltimore and the Yankees will close against a Tampa Bay team that has already secured the AL East title.
Boston, also bidding for the wild card, will visit Baltimore and then Washington.
Seattle will be home to Oakland, and both are still holding on to a slim chance of making the postseason. The Mariners will face the Angels and Oakland will meet the Astros – Houston will have already secured the crown in the AL West.
In the National League, the Giants (102-54) and Dodgers (100-56) remain locked in a fight for the title of the West – both desperate not to have to finish with a wild card and have to play a game of life and death. that it would be against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team in the best shape of the moment.
But San Francisco and Los Angeles will never see each other again this season. Instead, the Giants will face the Diamondbacks and Padres, and the Dodgers will have appointments against the Padres and Brewers, brand-new NL Central champions.
After the Braves-Phillies duel, Atlanta will face the Mets and Philadelphia will meet the Marlins.
In other words, the eliminated teams will end up in the finals.
Three teams have already secured their division crowns.
The Rays won the AL East after beating Miami 7-3 on Saturday night. Earlier in the week, the Chicago White Sox sealed the AL Central title with a 7-2 win over Clevaland for their first division crown since 2008.
St. Louis has chained 16 straight victories, but that streak did not serve to catch up with Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Brewers sentenced their division by beating the Mets 8-4 on Sunday.