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NL Central going to come down to the wire

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Chris Ruddick Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The National League Central wasn't decided until the final day of the regular season a year ago, and it appears we could be heading for the same type of finish this year.

After being declared dead in the water by yours truly just two weeks ago, the Milwaukee Brewers continue to prove me wrong and head into action on Wednesday with a one-game lead over the Chicago Cubs in the division. And don't be surprised if we see them trade that top spot back-and-forth a few more times before it is over.

I have given up trying to predict what is going to happen over there, because just when you think you have it figured out, it goes the other way. So let's break it down from a scheduling standpoint.

Of their remaining 18 games, the Brewers will play 10 of those contests in the friendly confines of Miller Park, while Chicago has just six games left in front of its home fans. Advantage Milwaukee.

Aramis Ramirez
Aramis Ramirez and the Cubs will not face a team with a winning record for the rest of season.
As far as their opponents go, Chicago does not play a team with a winning record the rest of the way, facing the likes of Houston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Florida.

Milwaukee also plays its share of the pathetic Central, but has a pair of four-game sets with Atlanta and San Diego sprinkled in there, with the series against the Padres falling on the last weekend of the season at Miller Park.

And, of course, San Diego will likely need those games just as badly as the Brewers will. Advantage Cubs.

I said Milwaukee was done two weeks ago, and I have to stick with that.

Unfortunately for Brewers fans, those eight games with the Braves and the Padres will probably be the difference down the stretch and ultimately what costs them their first-ever NL playoff appearance and their first taste of postseason action of any kind since winning the AL Pennant in 1982.

Since I have been so dead on when it comes to the NL Central this season, I have pretty much all but guaranteed that Milwaukee and Chicago will both go in the tank from here on out and St. Louis will win the division.

But then again, that is how the division has played out all year. Stay tuned.

RED SOX COULD HAVE A DECISION TO MAKE

As if ending the New York Yankees' near-decade-long stranglehold on the American League East was not enough, the Boston Red Sox now have even more incentive to finish with the league's top record.

According to a report in a New York paper earlier this week, the team with the AL's best record will decide whether it wants an extra day off during the American League Division Series.

In recent years, one of the four postseason series had an extra off day between Games 1 and 2, and it alternated leagues in the series that didn't involve a wild-card team.

Under the new postseason television schedule, though, there is an extra off day between Games 4 and 5 this year, meaning that the series with the extra off day between the first two games would be played over eight days. Because of that, teams in that series could have a huge advantage, as they would be able to use their Game 1 and 2 starters on full rest in Games 4 and 5.

So, if the season ended today, Boston would match up with Cleveland. Do the Red Sox really want to face C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona on full rest with their season on the line? Not many teams can throw four reliable starters out there in the playoffs. The Red Sox can. They would be giving Cleveland more of an advantage than they would be giving themselves.

Once a team clinches the best record in the AL, it will have one hour to notify Major League Baseball whether it wants to start its division series on October 3 or 4. It will be interesting to see what the Red Sox do.

According to plan, the format will give the choice to the team with the NL's best record next season.

POSTSEASON ELIGIBILITY

Someone asked me earlier in the week if September call-ups were eligible to be placed on the postseason roster.

The 25 players on a roster as of midnight on August 31 are eligible for the postseason along with any players who were on the 15-day or 60-day disabled list. However, teams can replace any of the players on the DL with any player who was in their organization as of August 31.

So, yes, September call-ups are eligible for the postseason as long as they were already in the organization and there is a player on DL they can take the place of.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Ruddick at cruddick@sportsnetwork.com.
Chris Ruddick


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