Battle for NL Central heats up on MLB.TV

Brewers aim to close division gap on Cubs in four-game series

Battle for NL Central heats up on MLB.TV

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, there are several tight postseason races around MLB that could come down to the final few days. The National League and American League races for the second Wild Card spot are neck-and-neck, while the NL Central and AL East are still too close to call.

Every game is critical, and you can catch all the action with MLB.TV.

Up-to-the-minute standings

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Here's what to watch for on Thursday (all times Eastern):

Central stakes: CHC@MIL, 8:10 p.m.

The NL Central-leading Cubs travel to Milwaukee for a huge weekend series against the Brewers, who are 3 1/2 games behind them in the division. Right-hander Jake Arrieta (14-9, 3.48 ERA) is scheduled to make his first start since Sept. 4, missing time due to a strained right hamstring.

Prior to the injury, Arrieta had been enjoying a resurgent second half, posting a 1.98 ERA in 10 starts following the All-Star break. His season ERA before that was 4.35. Ryan Braun is a career .292 hitter (7-for-24) against Arrieta, with three homers.

Braun's solo home run

The Brewers, who are also one game behind the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card spot, counter with right-hander Zach Davies (17-9, 3.89 ERA), who is coming off one of his poorest outings of an otherwise strong season. He gave up six runs in a season-low four innings against the Marlins on Saturday.

Davies will make his fifth start this season against the Cubs, the best being his last one. On Sept. 10, he surrendered just one run on seven hits, walking one and striking out six over seven innings at Wrigley Field. He'll know to be careful with reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant, who is batting .360 (9-for-25) with two doubles, a triple and a homer against him.

Anderson tries to smooth rocky road for Colorado: COL@SD, 10:10 p.m.

On their last road trip, the Rockies swept the Dodgers and earned a series split with the NL Wild Card-leading D-backs. But so far on their current trip, they've dropped two to the Giants, and are trying to prevent their hold on the second Wild Card spot from completely slipping from their grasp.

Colorado looks to left-hander Tyler Anderson (5-5, 5.28 ERA) to help right the ship against the Padres at Petco Park. He's tossed 10 scoreless innings since returning from knee surgery, including six scoreless frames against San Diego in his first start since July 25 on Saturday.

Rockies combine for shutout

The Rockies' offense came to life earlier this month, culminating in a 16-0 rout of the Padres at Coors Field on Saturday. But in three games since, Colorado has scored just six runs (all losses). All-Stars Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are a combined 2-for-15 on the current road trip.

The Padres give the nod to left-hander Clayton Richard (7-14, 4.82 ERA), whom they signed to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday. He has been roughed up for a 9.98 ERA in three starts against the Rockies in 2017.

Twins try to restart engines in Motor City: MIN@DET, 7:10 p.m.

The Twins look to rebound after a sweep at the hands of the Yankees in the Bronx, opening a series at Comerica Park against the Tigers. Holding onto the second AL Wild Card spot by a slim margin over the Angels, Minnesota will give the ball to rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia (4-6, 4.62 ERA), who makes his second start since missing a month with a left biceps strain.

Mejia fans Morales

Mejia has struggled against the Tigers, allowing four runs in seven innings (5.14 ERA) over two starts this season.

Minnesota hitters will face veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (8-12, 6.18 ERA), who continues to endure the worst season of his career. He's faced the Twins three times this season, and has surrendered 17 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings (13.11 ERA). Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario has been especially troublesome for Zimmermann, with a single, double and homer in six at-bats against him in 2017.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.