Flawed NL Wild Card hopefuls make for an intriguing, hard-to-predict stretch run

By Morris Phillips

The Giants can’t seem to keep up, but the foes they’re chasing can’t seem run away.

As the weeks dwindle in the 2019 season, that reality may be the flawed Giants biggest asset. Within the crowded field of NL Wild Card hopefuls, no team can seem to separate themselves from the pack.

And no team’s stretch run to postseason immortality seems more unlikely than the Giants, but in a race this unpredictable, maybe a fit exists.

Among the top seven teams–all within 3 1/2 games of each other–at least five are fooling themselves. The Giants are thinking they can overcome a losing record at home. The Phillies think they can overcome a losing record over the last two-and-a-half months. And the Nationals are attempting to overcome a 19-31 start to their season.

The Mets were 40-51 on July 12th. The Brewers can’t trust their starting rotation. The Cardinals keep seizing and fumbling momentum. And the Diamondbacks traded Zach Greinke.

Those aren’t strategies to to gain momentum. But for two of those clubs, a playoff berth is in the offing. But which two?

The Mets are the hottest in the pack, having won 15 of 16 prior to Sunday. But they have the most difficult schedule over the season’s final 44 games: nine games against the Braves, and series against the division-leading Dodgers and Indians.

The Brewers’ schedule is loaded with tough matchups: nine games with the Cardinals, seven with the Cubs and two-game sets with the first-place Astros and Twins. Their schedule eases considerably in the season’s final two weeks, but can they last that long? ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian suggested an overhaul of Milwaukee’s rotation and their bullpen might be needed to get this club to surge.

The Nationals are on the verge of getting injured Max Scherzer back into their rotation. But their schedule won’t wait for the occasion, they have seven games with the Braves, five with the Phillies and series against the Mets, Indians, Twins, Cubs and Brewers. They have the best opportunity statistically with their narrow lead on all six competitors, but Juan Soto’s ankle injury could change things in a hurry.

The Cardinals lost eight of 10 to playoff contenders, but rebounded nicely with a sweep of the Pirates over the weekend. They got Matt Carpenter and Marcel Ozuna back from injuries this week as well. But nothing about this club says extended win streak and that may be their biggest issue.

The Diamondbacks won Monday, beating the Rockies 8-6 in Denver. That means they’re likely to lose on Tuesday, bringing them back to .500 for the eighth time since July 21. No team is more closely aligned with mediocrity and their rotation is unquestionably thin without Greinke.

The Phillies have dropped six of eight, and they spent their off-day Monday pondering whether to place Jake Arrieta on the injured list. Whether they do or don’t, injuries have defined their season. Personnel issues that severe aren’t usually the precursor to a playoff worthy run.

And the Giants? Something must be resolved with their starting rotation, currently populated with rookies every three out of five days. Connor Menez, Shaun Anderson or Tyler Beede haven’t won a start since July 12.

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