As baseball fans, the gods have blessed us with some fantastic playoff races this September. Two of the six divisions are still up for grabs, and nearly every wild card spot is still reachable. Additionally, we are watching history in the making across both leagues with historic final pushes for award votes. In this playoff push edition from the Sports Wave, we will be looking at the NL and what teams still have a shot at the postseason. You can read our article on the AL playoff race here.
NL East: Current Leader: Atlanta Braves (79-70)
Somehow, the Atlanta Braves keep on winning. Despite losing Ronald Acuna at the midway point this year, the Braves hold a strong lead on the NL East. They continue to play balanced and with confidence throughout the second half of the season. Moreover, Austin Riley, Freddie Freeman, and Ozzie Albies continue to show their value and have carried the Braves despite the setbacks. Additionally, Charlie Morton and Max Fried have created a ferocious one-two punch that puts their starting rotation near the best in the league. The Braves have a legitimate chance at a postseason run that will shock the MLB. Prediction: Atlanta Braves
NL Central: Current Leader: Milwaukee Brewers (91-60)
The Brewers are led by their two Cy Young candidates, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. Enough said. Woodruff and Burnes have been on fire, leading the Brewers to the 3rd best ERA in baseball and 2nd best OBA. Additionally, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser, and Eric Lauer are just as formidable, rounding out the Brewer’s starting lineup as one of the best in baseball. Adding in Josh Hader, Devin Williams, and Hunter Strickland solidifies their depth and pitching destruction. However, their hitting needs to improve. If they want to make a deep run in the postseason, they need their 3rd worst batting average to upgrade by year-end. In conclusion, Brewer’s pitching great, Brewer’s hitting terrible. Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers
NL West: Current Leader: San Francisco Giants (98-53)
Arguably the most surprising team in baseball, the Giants have soared into first place in the loaded NL West. For the Giants, it has started and stopped with their old but legendary veterans. Especially Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. Despite both players missing games early in the season, they have killed baseballs throughout the season. Each player supports an AVG over .295 and an OPS over .880. Impressive numbers for the old guys. The Giants’ pitching has been fantastic, too, with a team ERA of 3.27, 2nd best in the league. In particular, Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Logan Wedd have carried the starting lineup throughout the entire season. However, I do not believe they can hold off the Dodgers for 1st in the division. Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wildcard #1: Current Leader: Los Angeles Dodgers (97-54)
The red-hot Dodgers are on a mission to win back-to-back championships. Through their fantastic pitching, which is 1st in the league in ERA, the Dodgers look to return to the World Series. Walker Buehler and Julio Urias continue to pound opposing hitters, and with the addition of Mad Max, it’s hard to find a weakness in this starting lineup. Furthermore, Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen have provided excellent depth out of the bullpen, further establishing their dominance. On offense, the hits keep on coming. Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, and Max Muncy have proven their ability to hit dingers and haven’t shown any signs of stopping soon. However, some questions remain. Will Cody Bellinger return and play like himself pre-2021? Will Trevor Bauer’s absence hurt more than we think? Time soon will answer these questions; in the meantime, watch out for the red-hot Dodgers. Prediction: San Francisco Giants
NL Wildcard #2: Current Leader: St. Louis Cardinals (81-69)
I think this can go without saying; the St. Louis Cardinals are the hottest team in baseball. They have come out of nowhere to take a strong lead over the 2nd wildcard spot. Furthermore, their pitching and hitting have both come alive to a godly level. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Tyler O’Neil have crushed baseball all season and getting super-hot at the exact right time. Additionally, Adam Wainwright has risen from the grave to give the Cardinals their much-needed ace. With how well they are playing right now, I have a tough time seeing them lose any time soon. Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals
Teams in the Hunt: Reds (78-74), Padres (76-74), Phillies (77-74)
I think the Reds can be considered as a slight disappointment after starting super-hot. Nick Castellanos, Jonathan India, and Joey Votto have contributed mightily to the Reds’ current record, but the hitting stop after them. Furthermore, the pitching has not been the playoff-caliber either. Luis Castillo holds a disappointing 4.08 ERA, and Tyler Mahle and Wade Miley can only do so much. If the Reds somehow make the playoffs, I cannot see them making it very far unless a divine miracle happens.
The Padres are another very disappointing team. Especially after their hot start, many pegged them as the best team or 2nd best team in baseball. However, the bats have cooled signifcantly as they have slowly watched their playoff dreams fade away. Fernando Tatis Jr. is still one of the best hitters in baseball, and Manny Machado has proven himself to be a worthy leader, but that does not explain their recent struggles. To have a shot at the postseason, Tatis needs to turn his season around and prove once again why he is one of the best players in baseball. If not, there is a very likely chance the Padres will watch the playoffs from their couches.
For the first time in my entire life, I feel bad for Bryce Harper. He is undoubtedly the best player, and yet, the Phillies will most likely miss the playoffs. Harper’s .313 AVG and 1.050 OPS is one of the best in the league, but partly due to his massive contract, he lacks the necessary help for a playoff-bound team. Furthermore, the Phillies’ pitching has been abysmal. Outside of Zach Wheeler, the starting rotation lacks a clear vision, and the bullpen needs more help than Lebron on the Lakers. Unfortunately, the Phillies will see themselves watching the playoffs from home again.