|A Look at the NL Wild Card Race||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on September 15, 2008
Once again the Wild Card is adding a lot of spice to the mix as we go into the final weeks of the season.Â Of all the things that Commissioner Bud Selig brought to the game (and there have been many good things), the Wild Card is certainly the best of them all, especially for those of us who love September baseball and the intensity of a good playoff race.
And the wild card is keeping things a little bit more interesting in the National League where three teams, the Mets, Phillies and Brewers, are separated by just a single game and the Astros are just 3 games back with the Cards and Marlins on the outside but still having somewhat of a chance.
Even if you discount either the Phillies or the Mets, one of whom must win the NL East, the Wild Card has kept fans involved, especially in the Central where the Cubs have all but run away with the division.
So letâ€™s take a look at the Wild Card Contenders in the National League
New York Mets:Â Currently winning their division, 1.0 game up on the Phillies.
Games remaining: 14 (7 home, 7 road) 4 v. Nationals, 3 v. Braves, 4 v. Cubs, 3 v. Marlins.The Mets are trying to avoid a repeat of last yearâ€™s epic meltdown but theyâ€™ve failed time and time again to put the Phillies away and now could easily find themselves hoping for any type of playoff berth at all.Â Just like last year the bullpen has been erratic and struggles to hold leads.Â Their schedule the rest of the way brings them face to face with just one team over .500 - the Cubs, who may very well have clinched their playoff spot before the series next week.Â Only the Phillies have a better schedule the rest of the way.
Philadelphia Phillies:Â Currently 1.0 game behind the Mets for the NL East, and tied for the Wild Card with Milwaukee.
Games remaining: 12 (6 home, 6 road) 6 v. Braves, 3 v. Marlins, 3 v. Nationals.
The Phillies have the best schedule down the stretch of any contender: They play only one series against a team with a record better than .500 and thatâ€™s a three game set against the Marlins.Â They have a very good chance of turning that into either a divisional title or the Wild Card.Â If they take care of business against the Braves while the Marlins lose in the first half of this week, they could take the wind out of the Marlins before the first pitch is even thrown.
Milwaukee Brewers:Â Currently tied for Wild Card with Phillies
Games remaining:Â 12 (6 home, 6 road) 6 v. Cubs, 3 v. Reds, 3 v. Pirates.
The Brew Crew has six games remaining against Chicago and the first set comes this week against a Cubs team eager to clinch their playoff spot and eliminate any chance that the Brewers can catch them.Â But the Brewers are aligned to throw their three best hurlers at the Cubs starting Tuesday while dodging Chicago ace Carlos Zambrano.Â How the Brewers face up to this first series may well determine their chance at the Wild Card considering the Phillies face a soft opponent.
Houston Astros:Â Currently 2 games back in the Wild Card chase behind Milwaukee and Philadelphia
Games remaining:Â 13 (7 home, 6 road) 1 v. Cubs, 3 v. Marlins, 3 v. Pirates, 3 v. Reds, 3 v. Braves
The Astros have been the hottest team in baseball down the stretch and they are looking at a very favorable schedule the rest of the way.Â Of their remaining 13 games only four are against teams over .500 and they get to face off against the weak sisters of the NL East and Central.Â Besides the one makeup game (due to hurricane Ike) tomorrow, the biggest hurdle the Astros face is Marlins, making their schedule roughly equivalent to that of the Phillies.Â Theyâ€™ll match up in the middle of the week with the Marlins with both teams really needing to take at least 2 of 3.
St. Louis Cardinals:Â Currently 4.5 games back in the Wild Card chase.
Games remaining:Â 13 (6 home, 7 road) 6 v. Reds, 4 v Diamondbacks, 3 v. Cubs.
On the outside looking in the Cardinals know their chances here are getting slimmer every single day, but all they can do is play good baseball and root hard for the Marlins who could potentially play spoiler against the Mets, Phillies and Astros.Â Theyâ€™ll need to see the Cubs clinch sooner rather than later since theyâ€™ll want their final set this upcoming weekend to mean little to the Chicagoans and hope theyâ€™ll get to throw their best while the Cubs start resting their regulars.
Florida Marlins: Currently 5.5 games back in the Wild Card chase 6.5 games back in the NL East
Games remaining:Â 13 (6 home, 7 road) 3 v. Astros, 3 v. Phillies, 1 v. Reds, 3 v. Nationals, 3 v. Mets
No team has their fate more their own hands than the Marlins who play 9 of their remaining 13 game against the teams above them in the Wild Card standings.Â For them the first set this week will be crucial as they match up against the Astros whoâ€™ll be playing with a desperation of their own.Â The Marlins need a sweep against Houston, or at least 2 out of 3 to have any hope of winning the Wild Card.Â If that doesnâ€™t happen, theyâ€™ll find themselves in the same role as last September, acting as spoilers and determining the playoff fates of the Phillies and Mets.