One of the main reasons that Major League Baseball chose to implement a second wild card playoff spot was to make more games late in the season meaningful. Say what you want about the league’s decision, but if the core reason was to keep more teams in contention down the stretch, it has definitely served its purpose. The National League Wild Card race has been incredibly close for the past month and a half, and now, as teams have ten games or less remaining in their regular season, the battle is coming down to the wire.
Before this past weekend’s games, here is what the N.L. Wild Card race looked like:
St. Louis Cardinals
Milwaukee Brewers (2.5 GB)
Los Angeles Dodgers (3 GB)
Philadelphia Phillies (4 GB)
Arizona Diamondbacks (5.5 GB)
Pittsburgh Pirates (5.5 GB)
Now, as we sit here on Monday morning, this is what the current playoff picture looks like in the Wild Card race:
Atlanta Braves (88-65)
St. Louis Cardinals (82-71)
Milwaukee Brewers (79-73) – 2.5 GB
Los Angeles Dodgers (79-74) – 3 GB
Arizona Diamondbacks (77-75) – 4.5 GB
Philadelphia Phillies (77-76) – 5 GB
Pittsburgh Pirates (75-77) – 6.5 GB
All in all, the playoff picture didn’t change much at all over the weekend, which is great news for the St. Louis Cardinals, who still maintain a multi-game lead for the final spot. The Brewers seem to be their biggest threat, not only because of where they are in the standings, but also because they’re playing the best baseball of any of the teams in contention.
St. Louis has a three game series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park this week, before closing out the season at home against the Nationals and Reds, the two best teams in the league. Washington and Cincinnati are battling for the top overall seed in the National League playoffs, so they may have a lot to play for in St. Louis…not great news for the Cards.
The Brewers have one more game against the Nationals in Washington today before heading to Cincinnati for a huge three gamer against the Reds at Great American Ballpark. Like the Cardinals, they, too, will close out their regular season with a home stand. They’ll host the Astros and Padres at Miller Park.
The Dodgers won a huge game last night against the Reds on national television, keeping pace with the Cardinals. L.A. is off today before facing the Padres in San Diego this week for three games. They’ll then host the Rockies and Giants to wrap up their year.
Do we really even have to discuss the Diamondbacks, Phillies, and Pirates? Each of these teams essentially needs to win out, and they’d most likely STILL need help to get in. A week ago, we, in Pirates nation, were talking about a huge series against the Brewers at PNC Park followed by a “sweep-able” series in Houston. But after going 1-5 in that stretch, not only are the Pirates Wild card dreams diminished, their hopes for a .500 season have been dimmed as well.
The Diamondbacks and Phillies are still mathematically alive, but their remaining schedules don’t help matters. Six of the Phillies’ nine remaining games are against the Nationals, while Arizona’s consistent inconsistently has plagued them all season. They need to win consistently over the next week and a half, and this simply isn’t good enough to do so.
Be sure to check back to Fans From The Stands later this week for more recaps and reactions to teams and games involved in the National League Wild Card race.