East. • 1. New York Mets. Record: 81-63. Magic number: 16. Why they're doomed: Bullpen woes; chiefly Billy Wagner, who is currently planning a comeback in time to play in the 2012 Olympics. Upcoming: They don't play the Phillies again. So there's that. Ray of hope: Carlos Delgado has four multihomer games in the past 13. Had two on Tuesday in 10-8 win over Nationals.• 2. Philadelphia Phillies. Record: 79-66. GB: 2 1/2 (3 in wild-card race). Why they're doomed: Fate would never allow a repeat of last year's Mets collapse. Upcoming: Big four-game series beginning Thursday vs. the Brewers. Ray of hope: Brett Myers has a 1.55 ERA since his return from the disabled list. Central • 1. Chicago Cubs. Record: 86-58. Magic number: 14. Why they're doomed: On the 39th anniversary of the Ron Santo black cat incident, the Cubs lost to the Cardinals 4-3 when former Cub Cesar Izturis got a check-swing grounder to second that scored the winning run in the ninth. This prompted a classic Lou Piniella eruption after the game in which he said "You have to get your damed sleeves rolled up and go out and kick somebody's ass." Further bad news: Their best healthy starter, Ryan Dempster, couldn't hold a 3-0 lead in the sixth. Upcoming: Chicago has 18 games remaining, including five with St. Louis, three with Houston, six with Milwaukee and four with the Mets, all of whom are in playoff contention. Chicago goes into this brutal stretch having lost seven of its past eight. Ray of hope: They're still hitting the ball. Geovany Soto, who has 21 homers, was named player of the month, and Kosuke Fukudome should be back in the lineup today. • 2. Milwaukee Brewers. Record: 82-63. GB: 4 1/2 (lead wild-card race). Why they're doomed: With Chicago struggling, Milwaukee has failed to take advantage, losing seven of its past nine, including a 5-4 loss to the Reds in 11 innings on Tuesday. Brandon Phillips got the winning single after breaking a finger on a bunt attempt. Upcoming: Six games remaining with the Cubs, including three at Chicago beginning Sept. 16. Ray of hope: CC Sabathia can carry the team by himself on those beefy, meat-lovers-pizza-eating shoulders. • 3. St. Louis Cardinals. Record: 78-66. GB: 8 (3 1/2 in wild-card race). Why they're doomed: Five games remaining with the Cubs, whom the Cardinals have not beaten in a season series since 2004. Ray of hope: Albert Pujols is unconscious, having hit homers in past three consecutive games. • 4. Houston Astros. Record: 78-67. GB: 8 1/2 (4 in wild-card race). Why they're doomed: I'm not even sure the Astros realize they're still in contention, let alone anyone else. Also, climbing over two teams is nearly impossible. Upcoming: Of 17 remaining games, five are against the Pirates and three against the Reds. Ray of hope: Who has the best record in the majors since the All-Star break? The Astros have won four straight and 12 of 13. West 1. Los Angeles Dodgers. Record: 74-71. Magic number: 16. Why they're doomed: Takashi Saito, Brad Penny Rafael Furcal are still out with injuries. Upcoming: Of 17 games remaining, six are with San Francisco, four with Pittsburgh and four with San Diego. Ray of hope: Andre Ethier is smacking that; had five hits and five RBI on Friday, and has his average up to .299, making him a nice compliment to Manny. 2. Arizona Diamondbacks. Record: 71-73. GB: 2 1/2 (10 1/2 in wild-card race). Why they're doomed: Brandon Webb and Dan Haren are each are 0-3 in their past three starts, and Randy Johnson injured his shoulder yesterday chasing kids off of his lawn. Upcoming: After having lost five straight, try to get back on track this afternoon against the Giants. Then it's three against the Reds. Ray of hope: Adam Dunn.