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Diamondbacks Playoff Scenarios

It's Tuesday, and the Arizona Diamondbacks do not yet know who they will be playing on Saturday, in the first round of the National League Division Series, or where that will be. It could be against Philadelphia, Milwaukee or Atlanta [but not St. Louis], with the game taking place either here in Phoenix, or any of the other three cities.

After the jump, we'll break down what is left to be decided, and what the outcomes might mean.

Who is the NL Wildcard?

It's either the Braves or Cardinals. The former have a one-game advantage at the time of writing, but they play the NL East champion Phillies, who have the best record in the league, for their remaining two games. They do get to play at Turner Field, however. The Cardinals are on the road, but face the team with the worst record in the league, the Houston Astros. Three scenarios are possible:

a) Braves win the same number of games, or more, than the Cardinals - Braves win the wild-card.
b) Cardinals win one more game than the Braves - a one-game playoff on Thursday in St. Louis
c) Cardinals win two more games than the Braves - Cardinals win the wild-card.

What will the Division Series match-ups be?

Normally, the wild-card winner travels to face the division winner with the best record, which would be the Phillies. However, the rules state that the wild-card winner can't face a team from their own division. The point of such a rule seems kinda questionable, since it penalizes the team with the best record by making them face another division winner. That's why, in 2007, the Diamondbacks faced the Cubs rather than the Rockies in the Division Series, though that was probably a good thing for us.

If the Cardinals win the wild-card, then there is no such issue. The match-ups will be St. Louis @ Philadelphia, and Arizona vs. Milwaukee. Home-field advantage for the latter pairing will go to whichever team has the superior record. If the Braves win the wild-card, having that superior record becomes even more important, as whichever of Milwaukee and Arizona has the better mark, gets to host Atlanta. The team with the worse record gets the unenviable task of traveling to Philadelphia in the first round.

Where will Arizona be playing?

This will be decided by whether or not we can catch up with the Brewers, who are currently one game ahead. They face the Pirates tomorrow and Wednesday, while we host the Dodgers. If the two teams end with the same record, Arizona has the edge, because we won the regular-season series between the teams, 4-3. Catching the Brewers would mean the Diamondbacks will play Game 1 at Chase Field on Saturday. That game would be either against the Braves (if they win the wild-card) or the Brewers (if the Cardinals win the wild-card).

Fail to catch the Brewers, and we'll be playing the Division Series on the road. Our opponents there will either be the Phillies (if the Braves win the wild-card), or the Brewers (if the Cardinals win the wild-card).

So who should I be cheering for again?

  1. Diamondbacks to beat Dodgers
  2. Pirates to beat Brewers
  3. Cardinals to beat the Astros

#1 and #2 should be obvious; for #3, the key is that the Cardinals winning the wild-card would save us from facing the Phillies in the first-round regardless of what happens between us and Milwaukee. This is probably a good thing, given the present standings. However, if we succeed in tying the Brewers, then we may want to cheer for the Braves, particularly if they have to go through the tiebreaker game to do so. That would mean, by the time they arrive in Arizona, they will be playing their third game in three different cities and three different time-zones over four days: Philadelphia on Wednesday, St. Louis on Thursday and then Phoenix on Saturday.

Of course, the American League is even tighter, and sees the Rays and Red Sox deadlocked in the standings, with two games left. It would be even tougher there if there's a play-off game. Say the Red Sox came through: they'd play in Baltimore on Wednesday, Tampa Bay on Thursday for the tiebreaker, and then open their Division Series in Texas or Detroit on Friday. And can I also point out that if Bud's proposals to expand the playoffs had gone ahead before this season, we would have been robbed of this drama. The Braves, Cardinals, Red Sox and Rays would all get a post-season spot. BOOOOO-ring...