All Aboard the Wild Ride in the National League!

What's brewin' in the NL Wild Card race?

It’s September 16th and there are still so many implications that could determine who is booking a ticket for the playoffs, and who should start looking for vacation spots once the regular season ends.

The battle for the top of the NL East is between two teams. In the National League Central, the Cardinals have slowly pulled away and taken hold of that division. Then there are the beasts in the West, the Dodgers, who look to be the favorites to win it all this year.  However, there is still a dog fight going on in the National League Wild Card, and who will come out with that last spot?

National League WC Standings heading into 9/16

Philly Fans, Do You Feel the Love?

If you were to take a look at all of the issues that the Phillies have had to go through this year, you probably would not have guessed that they would be competing for a playoff spot this late into the year.

In similar Philly fashion, the front office did not hold back in spending money to revamp the Major League roster to compete this year. They made big-time deals with sluggers Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. They even spent a decent amount of money to sign Corey Knebel in hopes that he could lock down the back end of their questionable bullpen. So much optimism for a very passionate fanbase that just wants to see the team succeed again. Then came the drama.

Joe Girardi was relieved of his duties as manager of the Phillies and Rob Thomson took over on an interim basis.  There was a big scare that Bryce Harper was going to be shut down early as he dealt with an elbow issue that was keeping him off of the field, but still able to keep him in the lineup with the benefit of the universal DH. Ultimately, Harper was put on the injured list for a lengthy period after taking a fastball off of his hand later in the season. Kyle Schwarber had his normal surge in June but has gone missing more times than not. Then Castellanos hadn’t been able to put it together and not find himself on the injured list.

Even with all of that turmoil, here we are with the Phillies +2.5 games up on the third Wild Card spot and 7-3 in their last 10 games. Harper has returned to the lineup and it doesn’t seem as if he’s missed a beat. Jean Segura’s return to the lineup has also been a huge plus. Not to mention the addition to the back end of their bullpen, David Robertson, providing them the consistency they had been searching for years. If this ball club is going to continue their run, they will need Nick Castellanos to return to this lineup, and revert to his days when he was donning the Cincinnati Reds‘ jersey that got him his $100 million contract in the off-season.

Ay Mi Padre!

What a roller coaster of a year it has been for the Padres and that may be underselling it.

Fernando Tatis Jr. came out of the lockout with an injury he sustained after falling off of a motorcycle in the Dominican Republic. Right when it seemed as if he was ready to make his return to the lineup, he was suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs. The start of the record-breaking extension he received has not gone according to plan.

The Padres also made the move to revamp their coaching staff and bring in Bob Melvin to lead this baseball team. Pair that with the aggression that A.J. Preller continues to use when building this team and it seemed as if the Padres were ready to get over the hump. A strong start to the season by Manny Machado had the Padres flying high and looking to be the true competitors to the Dodgers that we were all expecting.

Then came the deadline. First, the Padres were able to pry All-Star closer Josh Hader from Milwaukee to solidify the ninth inning. That has not gone according to plan as, up until recently, Hader was taken out of the closer’s role due to his inability to close out games. Then came THE deal that seemed to have broken all of baseball, and left fans across the league believing that the Padres were going to be the team to beat going forward. Juan Soto, and Josh Bell, were shipped over from Washington in a blockbuster deal that sent prized young shortstop CJ Abrams, along with a multitude of over highly ranked prospects, to the Nationals. These moves were supposed to be timed perfectly with the return of Tatis and catapulted the Padres into a locked spot in the post-season.

Much like last season, the Padres are struggling to the finish line. They’ve lost four of their last 10 games and are barely holding onto the last Wild Card spot in the National League. You look at this roster and wonder who is going to have to step up for them. Manny has been Manny all year, Juan Soto has been performing, and even Wil Myers has returned from the injured list and has produced for them down the stretch. Joe Musgrove is the wild card here. He has not been the Musgrove of old and it is worrisome for a team looking for a true identity. If San Diego is going to hold onto their spot and make a run in the postseason, Musgrove is going to have to perform as the top-of-the-rotation arm that netted him the lucrative extension this season.

Believe in the Brew Crew?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, the Brewers aren’t reaching their full potential.

Even in a division with the scrappy St. Louis Cardinals, the Brewers were picked by many to come out on top. With the Cubs, Reds, and Pirates heading towards a reconstruction, these two looked to be the ones competing for the division title. Now, with a couple of weeks left in the year, the Brewers are currently on the outside looking in and are hoping to close the 1.5-game deficit they are currently facing in the Wild Card Race.

After moving on from Hader, there were many people, including players on their team, that questioned whether they were going for it this year. In hindsight, that trade does not look all that bad anymore with the way Hader has performed in San Diego, and how their bullpen continues to shut down opponents when they enter the later innings. With a starting rotation spearheaded by last year’s Cy Young award winner and another ace in Brandon Woodruff, the Brewers are more than capable of competing in every game they play. Even with the injuries to Freddy Peralta, the starting rotation has continued to be a force on the mound. No, Corbin Burnes is not the same dominant ace he was last year but it is tough to compare the two years with what he was able to accomplish last season.

Looking at this club as a hole, there is a lot of talent that would lead you to believe they should be performing better. Their acquisition of Willy Adames last season was a big jolt to this lineup as soon as he arrived. This year hasn’t been as successful but he has been able to perform admirably for them. Rowdy Tellez was another player brought in via trade and he has given them the power they have been longing for in the middle of their lineup. The biggest question mark, as it has been for the past couple of seasons, is Christian Yelich. Since his injury back in 2019 where he broke his kneecap, Yelich has not been able to revert to his MVP form. He has continued to deal with his lingering back issue and his 58.9% ground ball rate isn’t going to do it. He is going to have to step up and lead this team into the playoffs. If he doesn’t, this is going to be an interesting off-season in Milwaukee.

Which Team is the Odd Man Out?

This is an interesting race.

Philly looks to have a hold on the second spot in the Wild Card so it is a two-team battle between San Diego and Milwaukee as to who is going to enter the postseason, and who is going to pack their bags and head home.

I don’t know if Milwaukee will be able to piece it together to pull off the comeback. Considering the talent difference between them and San Diego, it is tough to bet against talent prevailing in this race. I expect it to be Philadelphia and San Diego rounding out the National League playoffs come October.

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

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