A Look at the National League Wild Card Home Stretch

September 16, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Nick Punto (7) is out at second in the twelfth inning against the tag of St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma (38) at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The primary motivation behind commissioner Bud Selig's Wild Card expansion was to have more teams playing meaningful baseball in September. While the quality of this meaningful baseball is not on par with pennant races past, there is no denying that Selig's objective has been completed this season. Six clubs are within 4 1/2 games of the second Wild Card berth entering playing tonight.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WILD CARD STANDINGS

Club

Wins

Losses

Winning %

GB of 2nd

Homefield GB

Last 10

Streak

Braves

83

63

.568

--

--

7-3

W2

Cardinals

77

70

.524

--

6.5

3-7

W1

Dodgers

76

71

.517

1.0

7.5

3-7

L1

Brewers

74

72

.507

2.5

9.0

7-3

W2

Pirates

73

72

.503

3.0

9.5

2-8

L1

Phillies

73

74

.497

4.0

10.5

7-3

L2

D-Backs

72

74

.493

4.5

11.0

6-4

W1


The Cardinals continue to hang on to the second Wild Card spot like Roger Thornhill on Mount Rushmore. With a one-game lead, they are close to the pack. Given the clubs' respective remaining schedules, the Cardinals are well-positioned on paper to win a chance to play in the single-game Wild Card playoff.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

The Cardinals are not the team they were earlier in the season. Injuries have slowed the offense. Returns from injuries have bolstered the rotation. No return is bigger than Chris Carpenter's, which is slated to be this Friday at Wrigley. I don't know what effect having the Cy Young winner throwing mid-90s sinkers in between expletives will have on team morale, but it certainly can't hurt.

The Cardinals will also benefit from having two series against the lowly Astros bookend a series against the Cubs over their next nine games. This stretch will give the Redbirds an opportunity to create some breathing room between themselves and their competitors in the standings before closing out with three each against the Reds and Nationals, who may be setting up their rotations for the NLDS.

OPPONENT

GAMES

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

Run Diff.

Astros

3

48

99

.327

-206

@ Cubs

3

58

88

.397

-111

@ Astros

3

48

99

.327

-206

Nationals

3

89

57

.610

+128

Reds

3

88

59

.599

+78


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

The Dodgers have a difficult path to the Wild Card playoff. They get the league's two best teams for the next week and then one of the league's hottest teams in the Padres before facing the last-place Rockies and then the rival Giants. If their offense continues to sputter, they will find themselves on the outside looking in.

OPPONENT

GAMES

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

Run Diff.

@ Nationals

3

89

57

.610

+128

@ Reds

3

88

59

.599

+78

@ Padres

3

71

76

.483

-38

Rockies

3

58

87

.400

-100

Giants

3

83

63

.568

+45


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

The Brewers had long been underperforming their run differential. Their recent surge has seen them climb above .500 and into spitting distance of the postseason. Their remaining schedule is a mixed bag featuring the slumping Pirates (with a run differential now in the negative), the elite Nats and Reds, the awful Astros, and the surging Padres. With their offense, Milwaukee has the firepower to make a solid run.

OPPONENT

GAMES

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

Run Diff.

@Pirates

3

73

72

.503

-7

@ Nationals

4

89

57

.610

+128

@ Reds

3

88

59

.599

+78

Astros

3

48

99

.327

-206

Padres

3

71

76

.483

-38


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

The Pirates are at it again. In a season that saw them fighting for first place and make aggressive moves at the trade deadline, the club has still faded along with its MVP candidate has proven human. The club is 14-28 going back to the start of August. During that time period, Andrew McCutchen has hit a respectable .277/.376/.424. It's a testament to how great his season was that this stretch has dropped his OPS from 1.064 to .981. McCutchen's average has fallen to .343, three points behind the suspended Melky Cabrera.

OPPONENT

GAMES

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

Run Diff.

Brewers

3

74

72

.507

+41

@ Astros

3

48

99

.327

-206

@ Mets

4

66

80

.452

-40

Reds

3

88

59

.599

+78

Braves

3

84

63

.571

+82


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

After their pre-deadline fire sale, the Phils have surged. It comes as no surprise that the starting rotation has been the foundaiton of the renaissance. Oddly, though, Kyle Kendrick has been one of their best starters, posting a 2.47 ERA over the last thirty days. It also warms the heart that Chase Utley is back and doing Chase Utley things. He's posted 2.8 fWAR in 299 PAs. Their schedule is three parts postseason club and two parts jobber.

OPPONENT

GAMES

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

Run Diff.

@ Mets

3

66

80

.452

-50

Braves

3

84

63

.571

+82

Nationals

3

89

57

.610

+128

@ Marlins

3

65

82

.442

-91

@ Nationals

3

89

57

.610

+128


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Despite a losing record, Arizona is only 4 1/2 games back and with a friendly schedule to boot. How the Diamondbacks fare in their seven games against the cellar-dwelling Rockies and three games against the Cubs will be likely determine if they make a run at the last postseason spot.

OPPONENT

GAMES

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

Run Diff.

Padres

3

71

76

.483

-38

@ Rockies

4

58

87

.400

-100

@ Giants

3

83

63

.568

+45

Cubs

3

58

88

.397

-111

Rockies

3

58

87

.400

-100

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