The race for final wild card in the National League is shaping up to be a tight one.
What it hasn’t been — at least lately — is particularly good baseball.
At the end of Sunday’s games, Arizona, Miami and San Francisco were tied for that last postseason spot at 70-67. Cincinnati was percentage points behind at 71-68. None of those four teams, however, has a positive run differential. And none of them has a winning record since the All-Star break.
In fact, that quartet has gone 77-109 since the break. Because none of those teams has played particularly well, none of them have fallen out of contention. The Marlins are 17-28 since the All-Star game, even after completing a four-game sweep of Washington this past weekend. Arizona endured a 7-25 stretch from July 2 through Aug. 11 before righting the ship a bit.
The Giants have lost 16 of their last 24 games and the Reds have dropped 19 of 31.
The result of all this mediocrity is that Philadelphia (75-61) is now in solid shape as the NL’s top wild card. The Chicago Cubs, who were 6 1/2 games out of a playoff spot at the break, have made up all that ground and more. They’re 2 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the second wild card.
San Diego’s disappointing season looks even more exasperating as the bar for reaching the playoffs in the NL sinks lower and lower. The Padres are 6-22 in one-run games and 0-11 in extra innings, but they’re still only 5 1/2 games out of a postseason spot. There isn’t much time left, though.
What happens when the best team in baseball suddenly turns it up a notch? The Atlanta Braves took three of four from the Los Angeles Dodgers and are now 44 games over .500. Ronald Acuña Jr. got married Thursday and then became the charter member of the 30-homer, 60-steal club that night. He’s now up to 32 home runs and 63 stolen bases on the season.
ALSO RISING, SORT OF
Everything is relative, and for the Oakland Athletics this constitutes a bit of a surge. They’ve won four of five and eight of 13. For a while it looked like the A’s might challenge the New York Mets’ modern record of 120 losses, but now they’d have to lose every game the rest of the way just to tie the mark.
In fact, the A’s (42-95) no longer have baseball’s worst record this year. They’ve moved a half-game ahead of Kansas City (42-96).
How many teams made the postseason last year despite a losing record after the All-Star break?
LINE OF THE WEEK
Miguel Cabrera’s career is winding down, but at age 40 he’s still capable of an occasional highlight. On Saturday night he had four hits and three RBIs in Detroit’s 10-0 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Cabrera is one of seven players to reach 3,000 hits and 500 home runs — and his career batting average of .307 is the highest of anyone in that club.
COMEBACK OF THE WEEK
St. Louis trailed San Diego by a run in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday with two out and nobody on. The Padres had a win probability of 95.6% according to Baseball Savant, but they’ve been losing these types of games all year and this was no exception. Masyn Winn doubled off Josh Hader and then Tommy Edman hit a two-run homer to give the Cardinals a 5-4 victory.