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Tracking NL Wild Card race during final month of MLB season

We’re keeping an eye on the WC race in the National League as we approach the 2021 MLB playoffs.

Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates his single with first base coach Clayton McCullough during the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on August 29, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The National League Wild Card gives us probably the most crowded race in baseball as we enter the season’s final full month. One thing is certain: The Dodgers or the Giants will host the game. Who will be the visitor? Well, it’s a little complicated, but that’s what makes it fun! Let’s examine how you should approach betting on this race with odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.

NL Wild Card Standings

Los Angeles Dodgers (83-49) — +12.5
Cincinnati Reds (71-62) —
San Diego Padres (70-62) — 0.5 GB
St. Louis Cardinals (67-63) — 2.5 GB
Philadelphia Phillies (68-64) — 2.5 GB
New York Mets (65-67) — 5.5 GB

There are four legit contenders for that last playoff spot: The Cincinnati Reds, the San Diego Padres, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies. The New York Mets are 6.5 games back as of Aug. 31, but they are closer to the Rockies than they are to Philly. We can disregard that drama-filled franchise.

Playoff odds

The Reds and the Padres could play hot potato with the second spot for the rest of the season. Cincinnati is certainly not being underrated by DraftKings Sportsbook at -130. Jonathan India may be the NL Rookie of the Year. Joey Votto has had a resurgent season, and Luis Castillo has been one of the better pitchers in the league since the start of June. However, I would still argue that the Padres are the better team, especially for as long as Fernando Tatis’ left shoulder stays in its socket. Their starting rotation is finally healthy and they have a much better bullpen than Cincinnati, which will prove crucial during close games down the stretch.

But San Diego is a pretty sizable underdog (+185) likely because of the differences in these teams’ remaining schedule. The Reds’ remaining opponents have a combined .462, the second-lowest in the NL as of Aug. 31. Only five of their remaining 29 games will come against current playoff teams. Otherwise, they have three series versus the Pirates and three games each with the Cubs and Nationals. Conversely, the Padres’ strength of schedule is the toughest in baseball (.543). That includes 16 games against the Giants or the Dodgers.

The Phillies (+265) are three games back of the Reds for the second Wild Card spot and have the easiest schedule remaining (.461 winning percentage). The duo of Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler could carry them to the postseason. But my lord, that lineup is really ugly outside of Harper right now. And the bullpen remains a consistent problem.

The Cardinals (+900) have a difficult road ahead with a .524 opponents winning percentage. Although they are just 2.5 games behind following a recent 14-8 stretch, the starting rotation will suffer without Jack Flaherty for the rest of the season. Plus, closer Alex Reyes’ 17 percent walk rate is finally catching up to him as he has allowed nine earned runs in his previous 9.1 innings, spanning 10 appearances.

If I’m making a bet here, it’s on the Padres thanks to their combination of value and talent. Tatis is still an MVP candidate, and that lineup should be much better than it has produced lately. With Yu Darvish back to go along with Joe Musgrove and an improving Blake Snell, I think this team can outlast the Reds, setting up a fascinating NL West battle in the Wild Card playoff game.

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