As September comes to a close, the race to qualify for the MLB playoffs intensifies. Both the American and the National Leagues possess intrigue ahead of the regular season finale on October 1st. We’ll look into both, but today we kick things off with the National League, where six teams are fighting for three spots. The Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins, and San Francisco Giants all have an opportunity to earn a playoff spot in the NL Wild Card Race (and you could make an argument for the Padres but for the sake of brevity I’m counting them out).
Who steps up? Who crumbles? Let’s dive in.
Remaining schedule: @ ATL 2 Games, vs. NYM 4 Games, vs. PIT 3 Games, @ NYM 3 Games
Of the teams in the playoff hunt, the Philadelphia Phillies feel like the squad most likely to be in the playoffs. The Phils have the best record of the teams listed and also have a favorable schedule once they finish up their series with Atlanta. The disappointing Mets making up seven of the Phillies’ final 12 contests means Philly has a clear path ahead of them. I feel confident in saying the top spot in the NL Wild Card Race belongs to the Phillies. By the way, I’ll be on-site for Pokatok Thursday night for one of those key home games against the Mets.
Remaining schedule: vs. SF 2 Games, @ NYY 3 Games, @ CHW 3 Games, vs. HOU 3 Games
The Serps made a statement this weekend. 🐍 pic.twitter.com/XftiQuz1b5— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) September 18, 2023
With their sweep of the Cubs, the Dbacks put themselves in a great position to punch a playoff ticket. Arizona has San Francisco next up on the schedule, a chance to do some real damage to a fellow playoff contender. They also draw the Houston Astros to close the year, a team in a playoff race of their own. In between? The disappointing Yankees and a Chicago White Sox team that only finds themselves above last place by virtue of the Kansas City Royals’ historically bad season. While that series against the Astros could get hairy, I think the Diamondbacks find their way into the playoffs as well.
Remaining schedule: vs. PIT 3 Games, vs. COL 3 Games, @ ATL 3 Games, @ MIL 3 Games
Play ball! pic.twitter.com/TlnXfRsBnF— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 17, 2023
Coming off suffering a sweep against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cubs have now lost five in a row and eight of their last ten. This form late in the season spells disaster. Chicago has a real chance to right the ship at The Friendly Confines against Pittsburgh and Colorado but they close the season against the best team in the NL in Atlanta and follow that series up with a road trip to Milwaukee to play the leaders of the NL Central. Their current form combined with the tough close to the season makes me think the Cubs drop out though the talent should give Cubs fans hope that they can right the ship.
Remaining schedule: vs. MIN 2 Games, vs. PIT 3 Games, @ CLE 2 Games, @ STL 3 Games
Of the teams holding out hope in the NL Wild Card Race, the Reds may hold the best schedule remaining. The Minnesota Twins represent the toughest squad left on the schedule but Cincy gets them at home for the next two games. After that? A series against Pittsburgh at the Great American Ballpark before closing out the regular season with road trips to two below .500 teams in Cleveland and the St. Louis Cards who occupy the bottom of the NL Central. The Reds are certainly ahead of schedule on their rebuild.
Remaining schedule: vs. NYM 2 Games, vs. MIL 3 Games, @ NYM 3 Games, @ PIT 3 Games
Name a reason you love Luis Arraez, we have 200.☺️ pic.twitter.com/71BAUifgOE— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) September 18, 2023
I possess absolutely zero feel for how the Marlins close out the season. This team has been consistently inconsistent. Do we get the squad that thrashed the Braves or the one that only put up a run last night in a losing effort against the Mets? I’m not 100% sure. With that in mind, I’m hesitant to slot the Marlins into a wild card spot. Especially considering their last two series are on the road.
San Francisco Giants
Remaining schedule: @ AZ 2 Games, @ LAD 3 Games, vs. SD 3 Games, vs. LAD 3 Games
Time to hit the road 👋 pic.twitter.com/coJJ08FJBz— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 17, 2023
The Giants are a non-starter for me almost exclusively because of their schedule. Two road games against the Diamondbacks. Two series against top-of-the-division Dodgers. A home series against a Padres team that took 3 of 4 from the Giants earlier this month. These series represent massive challenges for San Fran to overcome. Unfortunately for the Giants, they also hold the worst record of the teams on this list. All of this adds up to a mountain San Francisco just doesn’t have the ability to climb.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks feel like the easy choices here. Philly for their current lead on the rest of the teams and Arizona for the fact they seem to have gotten hot at the right moment. I could see the Cubs, Reds, or Marlins all claiming that last spot. However, in spite of the pitching concerns for Cincinnati, I think the Reds are the squad that take that last wild card spot.
One thing is for sure – we can’t wait to see how this thrilling NL Wild Card Race comes to an end.