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Analyzing the Close and Intensified NL Wild Card Race

We’re drawing closer to the end of the 2023 MLB regular season. It’s almost time for some postseason baseball action! Twelve teams will fight it out to determine a World Series champion. This time of the year, teams are scrapping for every win they can get, as this could mean one step closer to being a postseason contender. Three teams are fighting for two spots in AL. On the other side, five teams are fighting for the final two Wild Card spots in the NL. The National League Wild Card might be determined in the last game of the season. One team that’s been safe from this discussion is the Philadelphia Phillies. Philly holds the top NL Wild Card spot, having a four-game lead over the Wild Card team. It’s time to find out which NL teams have the best chance of positioning themselves into the playoffs.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The last time the Arizona Diamondbacks made the playoffs was back in 2017. It’s safe to say Diamondback fans have been waiting a long time for another plus .500 season. Arizona is currently 79-72, holding the second NL Wild Card position and second in the NL West. Recently, they swept the Chicago Cubs at home. Arizona’s next series will be at home again, this time against the San Francisco Giants. Then they’ll go on the road for six games, going to New York to play the Yankees and then to Chicago to face the White Sox. Their final series will be back home against last year’s World Series champions, the Houston Astros. San Francisco has lost four of their previous six games; that series might be challenging for Arizona.

The biggest challenge for the Diamondbacks comes at the end of the season against the Astros. If Arizona can sweep or win two of the three games, they’ll be in an excellent position for the postseason. Arizona ranks third in stolen bases and sixth in innings pitched. D-backs first baseman Christian Walker leads the team in home runs and runs batted in. Corbin Carroll has 47 stolen bases in just his second season in the majors. Zac Gallen holds the most wins and strikeouts for any D-back starter with 15 wins and 199 strikeouts. Relief pitcher Kevin Ginkel has a 9-0 record in 56 appearances with a solid 2.19 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. While being compared to the other four teams competing for the Wild Card, the D-backs remaining schedule might seem complicated, but this Arizona squad is different from the ones we’ve seen in the past.

Cincinnati Reds 

When the 2023 MLB season, no one ever pictured the Cincinnati Reds with a shot of making it to the playoffs. Cincinnati, at 78-73, is a half-game out of the third NL Wild Card spot and a game back from the second Wild Card spot. Last night’s 8-4 loss to the New York Mets pushed the Reds out of the third Wild Card position. Cincinnati will start a six-game home stand, then finish the regular season playing six games on the road. Three of the four teams Cincinnati plays during the season’s final stretch are far from playoff contention. Those teams are the TwinsPiratesGuardians, and the Cardinals. If the Reds regroup after that loss to the Mets, they could have a strong finish. Sure, there are games the Reds may drop that they shouldn’t during this season’s final stretch.

With the toughness and competitiveness they’ve shown this year, they should be a favorite to clinch the postseason. The Reds have the most stolen bases thus far throughout the majors. They also rank first in saves and second in innings pitched. First baseman Spencer Steer leads the team with 143 hits, 22 home runs, and 81 batted in. Rookie phenom Elly De La Cruz’s 29 stolen bases lead Cincinnati. Pitcher Andrew Abbott leads the starters with eight wins and 112 strikeouts. Alexis Diaz’s 37 saves are why the Reds rank first in that statistical category. Let’s face it: Cincinnati’s biggest challenge in the last twelve games is the Minnesota Twins. Minnesota, who’s 79-71, already has complete control over the AL Central division. There could be a chance; the Twins are already looking at the postseason.

Miami Marlins

Another team no one had a lot of expectations for is the Miami Marlins. About half the season, the Marlins have been fighting the Philadelphia Phillies for second place in the NL East. While the Phillies hold the first NL Wild Card spot, they only hold a three-game lead. Miami has shown how badly they want to be in the 2023 postseason picture. They recently swept the MLB’s top team this season, the Atlanta Braves. Last night, Miami demolished Atlanta in front of the home fans in a 16-2 victory. Like Cincinnati, Miami has an easy-hearted final stretch. They’ll continue their home stand playing the New York Mets and the Milwaukee Brewers. Then the Marlins will go on the road to New York to face the Mets, and then Pittsburgh to versus the Pirates. They’re currently 78-72, tied with the Chicago Cubs for the third Wild Card spot.

The most challenging series remaining on the Marlins’ schedule will be when they face the Brewers, but they’ll have support from the Miami crowd to back them up. The Marlins rank fifth in batting average and sixth in strikeouts around the majors. Second baseman Luis Arráez leads the Marlins and the entire league with a .353 batting average. Arráez improves upon his .316 batting average from last season, making this a legendary year for the second baseman. Luis has also collected 199 hits this season.

Jorge Soler leads Miami with 36 home runs, while Bryan De La Cruz has the most batted-in for the team with 74. Starting pitcher Jesús Luzardo edges Miami’s other starters with ten wins and 194 strikeouts. If the Marlins can continue their impressive offense, like how they had things working against the Braves, Miami should easily make their way back into the playoffs for the first time in three years.


Main Photo Credits: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports


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