To be quite frank, the division races in the National League are just not intriguing this year. With the closest division race being in the NL west, the Dodgers’ five game lead over the Giants is pretty comfortable with less than two weeks left in the season. When it comes to the wild card race however, the races are far from over.
Two spots are available, but three teams remain in the picture for the National League wild card game. The New York Mets have possession of the lead (as of September 19th), with the San Fransisco Giants a half game back holding the second and final wild card spot. Trailing San Francisco by only one game are the St. Louis Cardinals, who always seem to find a way to sneak in to the postseason. So which two will remain standing when the season culminates October 2nd? Let’s take a closer look into the team’s situations and schedules to see who has the best shot for an October run.
None of these teams have blown anyone away lately. In fact, it’s more a battle of survival than thriving teams fighting for playoff spots. The Mets have lost Jacob DeGrom for the year and are now forced to put guys like Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman in their rotation. The Cardinals have been weighed down by a weak pitching staff, including Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha. All four of those player’s E.R.Ass is worse than league average, with the lowest of the four being Leake’s 4.50 (Carlos Martinez has an above average 3.15 era in 2016). The Giants may be in the most disturbing condition; after finishing the first half of the season with an MLB-best 57-33 record, San Fran has struggled greatly, not even winning 25 games in the back-half of the 2016 season.
Regardless of these difficulties the wild card-contenders have faced, the fact remains that two of them will make the playoffs, barring an unlikely run from the Marlins or Pirates, who are 4.5 and five games out, respectively. The Cardinals schedule certainly makes them look like favorites to jump the Giants, as they play all but three of their remaining games against sub-.500 squads. Despite the struggles the pitching staff has endured, Adam Wainwright is still Adam Wainwright. his season E.R.A won’t matter when he is in a big situation. He, and most players on the Cardinals roster, have been in this situation before.
The Giants also come in with postseason experience. San Fran has won three of the last six World Series, winning in even years (2010,12,14) every time. If you believe in patterns, this year looks good for the Giants. However, the Giants still have six more games against the powerful, proven Dodgers. San Fran’s pitching staff is stacked on paper, boasting a Cy-Young winner, World Series MVP, a perfect game, and none of these are attributed to number two Johnny Cueto. As has been an issue in the past, Santiago Castilla has not been able to close games. Castilla, or someone else on the team, has to be reliable out of the bullpen, or the Giants won’t get a chance to keep their recent tradition going.
Last but not least, the Mets. Known for late-season collapses similar to the Cubs, the Mets made a run all the way to the World Series last year, only to be absolutely pummeled by the Kansas City Royals. The Mets have easily been the most resilient team of the three in the race, fighting on despite losing every single infielder at some point this season due to injury, and suffering from injuries to the pitching staff, such as DeGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz. With only a few series away from the playoffs, the Mets still have life. Yoenis Cespedes has been a large reason for how the Mets have stayed alive, but it is really a team effort. The Mets won’t blow you away with names like Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, and Asdrubal Caberera, but here they are, still in the picture. The Mets are blessed with zero games against teams above .500, including three against the bottom-dwellers, the Braves. It will be a challenge, but New York only needs to hold off the Giants and Cards for 10 more days.
Prediction: The Giants streak finally ends. The Mets win home field, and the Cardinals sneak in past the slumping Giants to make the playoffs for the sixth year in a row.