The available spots in the National League playoff picture have narrowed to just one, as the Atlanta Braves used a Freddie Freeman walk-off home run to beat the Miami Marlins and clinch a playoff berth.
However the Braves aren’t officially in the playoffs yet, they’re just technically in.
This year is the first year that two wild card spots are awarded in each league but it’s not structured like the NFL playoffs where both teams do battle with divisional teams in the first round. Instead of adding another slot in the ALDS (which literally cannot happen and still make sense), the two Wild Card teams will play each other in a 163rd style game with the winner winning the old wild card spot.
Atlanta became just the second team in baseball history to clinch a playoff berth on a walk-off home run after trailing the entire game. The last time this happened, Bobby Thompson hit a home run for the Giants in 1952 after New York trailed the entire game.
Last year the Braves fumbled away an 8 1/2 game lead in the NL East to miss the postseason entirely. This Atlanta team, largely still intact from last year, exorcised some of those demons by clinching with 8 games left in their 2012 season — 9 if you include their playoff game against whoever finishes in second in the wild card standings.
At the moment, the St. Louis Cardinals would be that team as they hold a four-and-a-half game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers with the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks a full game behind them. It’s going to be a race to the finish for the final available playoff spot int he National League but it’s going to be something that the Braves and their fans can actually enjoy as they won’t be on the losing end this time.