MLB: Who will claim the National League’s final playoff spots?

Kevin Singhel, Asst. Sports Editor

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September is slowly winding down, and the end of the month coincides with the end of Major League Baseball’s regular season. This is usually the time of the year where we step back and take stock of the league’s division races; however, this year the division races aren’t particularly close. 

Instead, most of the league’s postseason drama resides in the Wild Card races, and in the National League (NL) Wild Card race in particular. Six National League teams are battling for the final two Wild Card spots, meaning the race will be tight and down to the wire. 

Who has the best shot of grabbing the final two playoff spots and sneaking into the postseason?

The Washington Nationals had a rough offseason, and an even more difficult early season stretch. Last winter, they lost their franchise player Bryce Harper to the Phillies, a detrimental blow to the team. Washington looked as though they would be unable to move on from Harper, struggling mightily during the first few weeks of the season. However, Washington has since recovered and is now presenting themselves as a premier playoff contender. 

The Nationals are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, and many think they could pull off a deep postseason run. They currently hold the first Wild Card slot, and have a decent sized cushion in the form of a multiple game lead. 

The team also has several star performers like Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Max Scherzer helping to pave their path to the postseason. 

While they’ve been in Washington, the Nationals have never won a postseason series, and this group is looking to make history — something that is entirely possible with this talented group.

The Chicago Cubs are fresh off of breaking their hundred-year-old drought a few years ago, and are looking to add another title. After a pair of early playoff exits in 2017 and 2018, the Cubs are back again and looking to go to the postseason for the fifth year in a row. 

Chicago has been hovering around playoff contention all year, currently being in control of the second Wild Card. The team is extremely talented, retaining a significant number of players from their 2016 championship team to provide big-game experience and expertise. 

However, they have been faltering as of late and have been unable to get a firm grip on the second Wild Card. There are many teams breathing down their necks, and they are in danger of slipping out of the postseason. With seven games remaining against the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs schedule is not easing up and will make it rough for them to hold on to the number two spot. 

The Cubs are strong contenders with lots of postseason experience, but that simply may not be enough to lock in their playoff spot.

The Milwaukee Brewers were expected to build off of their NLCS (National League Championship Series) appearance from last season, but this has proved to be a more challenging task than they expected. 

The team has struggled to maintain consistency. Rather than fighting for the NL Central crown, the Brewers are fighting to secure a Wild Card spot. 

Despite the inconsistencies, one positive for the team has been MVP candidate Christian Yelich. Yelich was the NL MVP last year, and has had an equally impressive campaign this season. Many had him as the favorite to win MVP again, claiming that Yelich has almost single-handedly kept the Brewers in contention. 

However, Yelich will miss the last few weeks of the season due to injury, meaning the Brewers will have to continue their postseason push without their star. It will be a tall task, but perhaps the Brew Crew can prove they are more than just a one-man show by qualifying for the postseason without Yelich.

The Philadelphia Phillies were pegged as a division-favorite at the start of the year, but have found themselves in a struggle to secure a Wild Card berth. 

The team had several key offseason additions, including former all-stars Bryce Harper and JT Realamuto. Despite these additions, the Phillies have struggled to stay consistent and have had trouble stringing together consecutive wins. 

Preseason expectations for this team were very high, and for good reason. On paper, Philadelphia should be a threat for a deep postseason run. However, the team’s starting rotation and bullpen has struggled, and the Phillies haven’t exactly gotten what they expected out of their offseason acquisitions. 

As a result, the team sits a few games out of the second Wild Card with a brutal portion of contests remaining in their schedule. This team certainly has the talent to lock up a Wild Card, but it may be too late for the Phillies to reach their full potential. 

The New York Mets were left for dead after the All-Star break, as they entered the second half of the season with the second worst record in the National League. However, a miracle second half run has the Mets in the thick of playoff contention and only a few games back of the second Wild Card. 

New York is led by rookie Pete Alonso, a phenom who is on pace to set the MLB rookie home run record. The Mets also have a stellar rotation, consisting of last year’s Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom and superstars Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman. 

A few months ago, the Mets making the postseason would have been a pipe dream, but now it is close to becoming a reality. The Mets have an easy portion remaining in their schedule, consisting of bottom-feeders like the Rockies, Reds and Marlins, meaning it’s entirely possible that this team can continue its miracle run and sneak its way into the postseason.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are the last NL Wild Card contender, and they enter the race as a dark horse. 

The team traded away franchise player Paul Goldschimt in the offseason and weren’t expected to contend this season. However, the D-Backs have come as a surprise to fans and analysts alike and have been fringe playoff contenders virtually the entire season. 

The team even remained in contention after trading star pitcher Zack Grienke to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline. 

Arizona may not be the most talented team on the list, but they certainly do have the heart to battle into a Wild Card spot. Perhaps, they have one last surprise up their sleeve and can sneak their way into the playoff field.

These six teams are sure to make the NL Wild Card race for the final two spots exciting, hopefully resulting in some quality baseball games to close out regular season play.