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MLB postseason picture: Braves look like they're pulling away in NL East

Mike Oz
Yahoo Sports

September is upon us and every race in Major League Baseball is headed for the home stretch. That’s why every night between now and the end of the regular season, Yahoo Sports will bring you an updated look at the MLB postseason picture.

The Atlanta Braves have been locked in a back-and-forth battle with the Philadelphia Phillies for the top spot in the NL East since as far back as May. But after Sunday’s action, where the Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates for the second straight game and the Phillies lost to the Chicago Cubs again, the Braves are starting to look like they’re pulling away.

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Atlanta’s lead in the NL East stands at four games after Sunday’s games. Consider that on Aug. 20, they were up by just a game over the Phillies. With the postseason in sight, it’s time for teams to chug to the finish line or fade away. After finishing August at 17-13, compared to Philly’s 13-14, it seems like we know how the Braves are faring right now.

Ozzie Albies and the Atlanta Braves have a four-game lead in the NL East. (AP)

Key Postseason Races

NL West: As we covered in detail, the Los Angeles Dodgers have taken sole possession over first place after another dramatic win against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was 3-2 Dodgers, with Matt Kemp once again striking the big blow against Archie Bradley. The Rockies — who beat the Padres 7-3 — are now in second place, a half-game behind L.A.

NL Central: The Cubs won (8-1 over the Phillies) and the Cardinals lost (6-4 to the Reds), so the Cubs currently have a five-game lead. The Milwaukee Brewers, who beat the Nats 9-4 on Sunday, are actually in second place. The Cards, with their loss, are 5.5 out.

NL Wild Card: The Brewers and the Cardinals remain in possession of wild-card spots at the moment, but the Rockies are only 1.5 back. The D-backs are two games back and the Phillies are 3.5 back.

Houston Astros batter Alex Bregman (2) celebrates with George Springer, center, and Tony Kemp during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, Sep. 2, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

AL West: The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics both won — Houston beating the Angels 4-2 in the Sunday night game; the A’s beating the Mariners 8-2 — so Houston’s two-game lead remains the same. The Mariners, however, look like they’re in trouble after splitting a series with the A’s. Instead of making up ground in the division, the M’s are 7.5 back.

AL East: The Boston Red Sox continue to hold a strong lead over the Yankees. Both teams lost Sunday — the Red Sox were blanked 8-0 by the White Sox; the Yankees lost 11-7 to Detroit — so Boston’s division lead remains at 7.5. They’re not quite to countdown-the-Magic-Number time, but it’s not too far off.

AL Wild Card: The only real drama is which teams end up where. The Mariners are 5.5 out of the wild-card, which isn’t impossible but isn’t likely either. So right now, it would be the Yankees and the A’s in a one-game playoff, but each team is still trying to catch its division foes.

Magic Number Watch

Cleveland Indians: The Indians are the only team in MLB right now, who are in Magic Number mode. The second-place Minnesota Twins just aren’t close enough. Both the Indians and the Twins lost Sunday, which means the Tribe only got one game closer to popping champagne. Currently their magic number is 13.

Elimination Watch

No National League teams are mathematically eliminated from postseason contention just yet, but the San Diego Padres look like the first team to earn that “honor” this season. They’re three games away from elimination. Four AL teams — the Orioles, Royals, White Sox and Tigers — have already been eliminated.

Javy Baez and the Cubs start a three-game series with the rival Brewers on Monday. (AP)

Monday’s Must-See Game

It’s a good ol’ NL Central battle, as the Cubs and Brewers meet in Milwaukee for a three-game series. The Brewers, you’ll remember, are five games behind the Cubs, so a sweep could change the divison landscape quite a bit.

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Mike Oz is a writer at Yahoo Sports. Contact him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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