A wild finish to the wildcard round in the National League

Since it was introduced in 1995, the wild card round has been a staple in the MLB playoffs. They’ve had many memorable moments over the years and they just keep on coming. Many teams are still fighting for a spot or are fighting for the seed they want to play in. Let’s see who looks the best and is most ready for October.

The National League this year is fascinating as the regular season winds down and everyone prepares for October baseball. The NL East this year has been steadily going, but now, in the middle of September, it looks uneasy for the Mets. In May the Mets held a 10-plus game lead over the rest of the division. Currently, the Met’s lead has shrunk down to just 1.5 games over their division rival, Atlanta Braves, who, since May, have been without question the best team in baseball. However, the Mets are still up in the division and someone will have to come up big in the closing weeks of the season if they want to retain that lead. It could be the complete hitting first baseman Pete Alonso, who leads the team in home runs (34), RBIs (110), slugging percentage (.505), and OPS (.849). The center fielder, Brandon Nimmo, has done an amazing job with just getting on base for the team, as he has an on-base percentage of .355. 

Since May the Atlanta Braves have been the most consistent winning team in baseball with a record of 78-43. Even though all of the injuries they have had, they are still a powerhouse in the NL. Some of their rookies have stepped up big like Vaughn Grissom who has scored in 34 out of the 38 games he’s played in. Michael Harris II has been an amazing five-tool player ever since he’s been called up in May. On the pitching side, you have Spencer Strider who has a WAR of 3.7, a 2.72 ERA, and a  record of 10-5 with 192 strikeouts to compliment those stats. Needless to say, the Braves are in great shape for another deep postseason run, especially when you still have so many great players from last year’s World Series-winning team. 

Then there’s the Phillies who are 10 games behind in the division, but they still have the second NL wild card spot. Their bats are still very hot at the moment, but the pitching is in question as they look to make a run in the playoffs. With their young star starting pitcher Seranthony Dominguez, the lowest ERA on that staff is 3.07. Their best relief pitcher ERA is 2.60 by David Robertson. Yet they still have guys who give you quality starts such as Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler who help complement a potent offense that features sluggers such as Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Rhys Hoskins, and Kyle Schwarber who has 37 home runs.

Moving on from the East, over to the NL Central, the Cardinals look to run away with the division. This team is having a resurging second half of the season as the big three veteran players Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols are playing great for their age as they look to go back and win a World Series one more time. Not to mention the fact they have, arguably, the best corner infield players in the league, with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado who are both having the best year of their respective careers. Plus, they have amazing help from trade deadline acquisition pitcher Jordan Montgomery, who has become a beast during his time in River City. Montgomery has a 5-1 record, a 2.05 ERA, and he’s given up 11 earned runs in 48 and ⅓ innings pitched. All that combined has made a machine for winning baseball. 

But you can’t count out the Milwaukee Brewers who have not been eliminated yet. They are seven games behind the Cardinals but have had a great year for the team they have. They lost some key players over the years, such as Kolten Wong, Avisail Garcia, Josh Hader, and Jackie Bradley Jr, but new faces have made a big impact. Rowdy Tellez leads the team in home runs with 30, and Willy Adames leads the team in RBIs with 85. The pitchers have also come up big for the Brew Crew with guys like Corbin Burnes. Burnes is leading the team in strikeouts with 214, and Devin Williams leads the team in ERA with a 1.82 earned run average. If this team can get hot on both the offensive and the pitching/defensive side, they will be a team to look out for in October. 

 This year the NL West division is pretty cut and dry as the Dodgers have clinched another division win, but the Padres refuse to take that. Now yes, they did not match up well against the Dodgers, but they still are in a Wild Card spot as of right now and look to play October baseball. They have had a great season as many of their key players have come up big for them. Since their young superstar, Fernando Tatis Jr, tested positive for PED usage, the team has felt the loss of his presence, but they are still winning big. Manny Machado has been holding down the offense this season. He has 28 home runs, 90 RBIs, a batting average of .299, an on-base percentage of .369, a slugging percentage of .535, and an OPS of .904. It’s not just him, it’s his role players who have come up big as well. Jake Cronenworth has a career-best 73 RBIs this year with 20 games left to play. Jurkison Profar has been such a help as a utility player as well as someone who can get on base. Plus, they have some pretty solid arms that help them out as well. Yu Darvish leads the team in strikeouts, with 175, and Joe Musgrove is right behind him with 157 strikeouts. However, pitching has been their downfall, as it’s not as consistent as they’d like it to be.

My prediction for the wild card round is the Mets and Dodgers will have the byes, and the two wild card matchups will be Padres vs. Cardinals and Phillies vs. Braves. From these matchups, the Cardinals sweep the Padres 2-0. This offseason will be interesting for the Padres when they lose. I also think that the Braves will go the full three games against the Phillies but win the third game convincingly. From this, the National League division series will see the New York Mets versus the St. Louis Cardinals, and the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. From there, it will be the Mets versus Dodgers in the NLCS. I predict the Mets will win and punch their ticket for the World Series.