While MLB pundits want to chase the AL wild card race because it has the media spotlight teams (Yanks, Red Sox, etc), I’ll focus on the NL wild card. There are several teams bunched together that are going opposite ways. San Francisco, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Miami, and even the up and coming San Diego Padres are all bunched together in a tight NL wild card race.
Up atop currently is the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates have been defeating teams in late July/August series to gain ground on the struggling Giants and Braves. They’ve done it with a spark provided by losing their star Andrew McCutchen in the series against Arizona. They’ve had following success against the Marlins and the Tigers.
San Francisco on the other hand has been in a well documented tail spin since starting the first month and a half of the season sharp. At their current rate it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them continue to drop. Pitching has deteriorated for them and the continual issues with getting runs has not waned.
The Reds are a team that likely would be much further ahead than they are if they were completely healthy. But they have just had enough success with their starting pitchers to keep rolling along especially with the Giants and Braves sliding.
Atlanta has a similar story as the Giants. They looked the part for a fair stretch of the season. Their accruement of veteran pitchers worked in spots but the lack of finesse hitting has hurt them dearly. They’re unable to get consecutive hits strung together and strikeout at too high of a rate.
St. Louis has tried to acquire the magic they perceive to be better options. Thus far Justin Masterson looks to be just as rusty as he finished in Cleveland. Their lineup seems to be too aged for success as they’re lacking home run ability which has stopped several threats with RISP.
That leaves the Marlins and Padres. I’ve mentioned the Marlins several times as my darkhorse candidate and now the door is fully open for them. They’ve managed to dodge several issues with their pitching staff and extra-inning losses. At the plate they’re one of the streakiest teams in baseball and right now they’ve come together collectively to hit the ball well. The only regular starter that may need to be taken out is Garrett Jones. He has had a few errors at first base and has brought next to nothing for the team at the plate.
Atlanta and San Francisco have the prestige of being renowned. Pittsburgh would be a great story but has felt short before. That would leave Cincinnati which if healthy probably should be the favorite. They have great all around pitching, lead the MLB in defense, and have just enough hitting to win games.