The National League Wild Card race is simple. Or at least, it’s simpler than what’s happening over in the American League.
At the moment, there are only four teams vying for the three Wild Cards: Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers. No other team is within nine games of a Wild Card spot. Here’s how the standings look entering Saturday.
NL Wild Card standings, Sept. 3
1st WC spot: Braves (82-51)
2nd WC spot: Padres (74-59)
3rd WC spot: Phillies (73-59)
Then you have the Brewers, who are at 69-62, 3.5 games back of the Phillies for that final spot. But they have been fading ever since they dealt closer Josh Hader to the Padres. Since that Aug. 1 trade, the Brewers are 12-17. Among contending teams, only the Yankees (9-19) have a worse record during that span. The Brewers have scored two runs or fewer eight times in that stretch and have fallen from three games up in the NL Central to 7.5 games back.
The Padres (16-13) and Phillies (18-12) have been OK since Aug. 1. Neither is a juggernaut, but the Brewers’ stagnant offense and middle-of-the-pack bullpen don’t instill faith that they can make a charge. While the Padres and Brewers have a better than 80 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs, the Brewers are stuck at just 28.7 percent.
Atlanta is going to make the playoffs in some form or fashion. It has a firm grip on that top NL Wild Card spot as it is eight games clear of San Diego. But the Braves are still in the thick of a division race, 3.5 games behind the Mets entering Saturday.
Basically, whoever finishes second in the NL East — the Mets or the Braves — will take home the No. 1 Wild Card spot. Barring a sudden Brewers resurgence, that team will face either the Padres or the Phillies in the Wild Card Round. The team with the No. 3 Wild Card will face the division winner with the worst record, which will almost assuredly be the St. Louis Cardinals.
Don’t expect to see much change in this race over the regular season’s final month.