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.

Headline Sports podcast with Barbara Mason: Skaggs’ death a shock to the baseball world; Coco takes out Serena; plus more

Photo credit: @molly_knight

On Headline Sports with Barbara Mason:

#1 How shocked is the baseball world after finding out about the death of 27-year-old Tyler Skaggs, who was found dead in his Texas hotel room during the Los Angeles Angels’ trip to face the Texas Rangers. The game was canceled.

#2 Was the loss at Wimbledon for Venus Williams to 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff more a pass the baton moment, defeating Williams in the first round of the tournament or was it a match for Williams trying to figure the younger player out?

#3 Megan Rapinoe is no doubt the face of the US Women’s Soccer team. She was confident, showed leadership, she took on Trump and the White House. How important is Rapinoe to women’s sports and how she represents women in the US World Cup?

#4 How realistic is it that San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner will be traded sooner or later? The New York Yankees are chomping at the bit at getting a shot at getting Bumgarner.

#5 The San Jose Sharks dealt their captain Joe Pavelski to the Dallas Stars. Did the concussion that Pavelski sustained in the playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights play a role in the Sharks parting ways with Pavelski or was it something else?

Barbara Mason does Headline Sports each Tuesday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Headline Sports podcast with London Marq: Women’s US Soccer team prepares for Sweden; Brazil gets 1-0 World Cup win; plus more

USA Today photo: June 18: Brazil forward Ludmila shoots against Italy goalkeeper Laura Giuliani. Alexis Reau, Presse Sports-USA TODAY Sports.

On the Headlines Sports podcast with London:

#1 Abby Dahlkemper said that it’s in the USA women’s soccer DNA to “win and do really well.” The women’s US team, who are the defending champs, are preparing for their game against Sweden. Both teams have clinched for berths in the top 16.

#2 World Cup soccer Brazil team got a 1-0 victory over Italy in Valenciennes, France, the win advanced Brazil for the sixth time to the knockout rounds. Brazil got their goal from Marta, who is playing in her fifth World Cup at 33 years old.

#3 The US Men’s team gets the gold with a win over Guyana. The US’s Tyler Boyd scored two goals as the US got a convincing 4-0 win over the Guyana team on Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minnesota for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

#4 There was relief when former XFL player Rod Smart, who was famously known for his football jersey when he played for the Las Vegas Outlaws in 2001 that read “He Hate Me” came up missing for six days. His family expressed concern. The Smart family are happy to announce that Smart was found safe and sound and no reason given for his absence. Smart played a season with Philadelphia and four with Carolina in the NFL.

#5 The San Jose Earthquakes are on a good run. They have gone undefeated in their last four games, and if you include their US Open Cup run against Sacramento, five undefeated games. The Quakes play LAFC on Thursday night to try to keep it going.

London Marq does Headline Sports podcasting each Wednesday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Headline Sports podcast with London Marq: World Cup–US Women no match for Thailand in 13-0 blowout; Kings to host Summer League at Golden 1; plus more

Photo credit: @BostonGlobe

On the Headline Sports podcast with London:

#1 In the World Cup, US Women downed Thailand 13-0, Alex Morgan scored five goals and there was no mercy rule as the US Women kept pouring it on in Reims, France. The US took it to Thailand right from the kickoff.

#2 The win by the US topped the old record when Germany took it to Argentina in an 11-0 win in the 2007 World Cup.

#3 The Sacramento Kings will be hosting a California Classic Summer League at Golden 1 Center from July 1st through 3rd. Fans will get to take a look at the following teams: the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

#4 With the Summer League coming up, where does Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton stand? He has been accused of sexual assault. His accuser is also holding the Warriors and Lakers legally responsible for the attacks. Is the Luke Walton case going to be a distraction or can Luke guide the Kings and get past it?

#5 The San Jose Earthquakes won a friendly 4-3 over Sacramento Republic FC on Tuesday night at Avaya Stadium. Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski said that the team is in a zone a winning mental state right now, and even though it was like a preseason game, the Quakes are pushing to win and won’t take any prisoners right now.

#6 Former San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence hit another one off the fence for the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night against the Red Sox. Pence chalked up his 14th home run for an inside-the-park home run against the Boston Red Sox. Pence has been in the zone this season. He’s also got the Rangers clubhouse pretty loose right now.

London Marq does Headline Sports each Wednesday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com