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What Giants, NL wild card competitors face in final week

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A few years ago, MLB altered the first pitch times on the final day of the regular season, ensuring that every game starts at just about the same time no matter the time zone. It's supposed to lead to some drama, but over the course of 162 games, races tend to be decided well before the final day. 

That won't be the case this year. As the final week of a 60-game season kicks off, MLB is headed for a truly chaotic final Sunday, particularly in the National League. There are currently six teams separated by 1 1/2 games in the standings, with three from the NL Central vying for second place or a wild card berth and two from the NL East doing the same. 

The sixth team in that mix? That would be the Giants, who salvaged the final game of the series in Oakland and now return home, where they're 16-9 this season. The Giants have four against the Colorado Rockies, who have the faintest possible hopes remaining, and then four with the San Diego Padres, who clinched a playoff spot Sunday. 

If the NL West is decided before San Diego gets to town, it could be a somewhat easy stretch compared to what some others are facing. Here are the schedules for all the Giants' competitors over the final week:

Miami Marlins (28-25)

For weeks, they were the team closest to the Giants in the Wild Card race, but they start this week aiming much higher. The Marlins are three games behind the Braves as the teams begin a four-game series in Atlanta. Miami closes out with three against the New York Yankees, who could be locked into their seed by the time Friday comes around. Regardless of how they get there, the Marlins certainly look like they'll be a surprise participant in the postseason. FanGraphs puts their odds of playing beyond Sunday at about 84 percent. 

 

St. Louis Cardinals (26-24)

The craziest remaining race is in the NL Central, where the Cubs are closing in on a division crown but the next three teams are separated by just one game. The Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers finish up with a five-game series, but before that one, the Cardinals have three against the Kansas City Royals. This is similar to when the Cincinnati Reds faced the Pittsburgh Pirates last week. It was a chance to sweep and make up some ground, and that's exactly what they did. A sweep of the Royals would just about get the Cardinals in. 

Philadelphia Phillies (27-26)

Two months ago, the Phillies looked to have possibly the hardest final week of any MLB team, with four against the Washington Nationals and three against the Tampa Bay Rays. But the Nationals no longer are in the playoff race and the Rays could have the AL East wrapped up by the time the Phillies arrive Friday. Gabe Kapler's old club is a game behind the Marlins for the second NL East spot and currently holds the first wild card spot, and they have one edge as they go into the home stretch. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are scheduled to start four of the final seven games. 

Cincinnati Reds (27-27)

This is the team that the current postseason participants don't want to see, with the possibility of throwing Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray at an opponent in a short series. The Reds won seven of eight to get back into contention, but they have a tough stretch ahead. The Brewers come to town for three and the Reds finish up in Minnesota, where the Twins are trying to chase down the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. 

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Milwaukee Brewers (26-26)

Remember a little earlier when I mentioned beating up on the Royals? The Brewers swept them over the weekend to set up a final week that could land them in second in the NL Central or on the golf course. The Brewers visit the Reds for three and then the Cardinals for five. 

Giants (26-26)

Currently on the outside because of tiebreakers, the Giants have their fate in their own hands. The Rockies have lost six of eight and have a .659 OPS away from Coors Field this season. On top of that, Nolan Arenado might be out with a shoulder injury. The first game of this series is basically do-or-die for the Rockies, who are 23-29 and need to sweep this series at Oracle Park if they want any shot at the postseason. It's German Marquez vs. Johnny Cueto in the opener.