NL Wild Card Chase Heating Up

With most teams having just 18 games remaining in the regular season, each night’s game is becoming exponentially more meaningful. Saturday night saw the slumping Dodgers begin to look like a team determined to end the season strong, the Brewers continue their unfathomable second half and the Pirates get off the snide with a win against the Cubs. With so many teams bunched together in the NL Wild Card race, there’s bound to be a dramatic storyline every night and right now, it’s anybody’s game.

We do need to clarify something though up front. The Atlanta Braves are basically a lock for one of the Wild Card spots, so for them, the games aren’t as big. However, that all-important second spot is up for grabs for five NL teams that are separated by just three games.

The Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off a dramatic 4-3 ninth inning win against St. Louis, drawing them even for the second Wild Card spot with the Cardinals. Although the Dodgers have only won three of their last seven games, their two consecutive wins in the series with St. Louis has revived spirits in the City of Angels.

LA hopes its win last night will turn the tide on the Wild Card race

The lead for the second Wild Card spot will be on the line tonight as in game four of the LA-St. Louis series. The Dodgers, who are looking to take three of four from the Cards, will send Stephen File to the hill to face Adam Wainwright. File, who is replacing the injured Clayton Kershaw, is only making his fourth career start, but has pitched well so far, going 0-1 with a 2.19 ERA. File will need some help from the offense against Wainwright, who is 13-13 on the season with a 4.01 ERA, but has lost his last three starts. Look for LA to keep the momentum going and cover the -1.5 runline in this one.

After dropping seven straight games, the Pittsburgh Pirates are surprisingly still in the race, helped by last night’s 7-6 win over the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates, who are now only two games back of LA and St. Louis, had lost four straight to the Cubs before finally getting some offense going on Saturday. Pittsburgh has endured a dreadful second half, but hopes to build off last night’s win in game three of the Chicago series at Wrigley Field today.

The Pirates ended their losing streak last night

Jeff Locke will get the ball for the Pirates today. He has only started two games this season and is making just his fifth appearance overall with a 4.11 ERA. Chris Volstad will get the start for Chicago and although he has more experience than Locke, he has struggled this season with a record of 3-10 and a 5.99 ERA. With this pitching matchup, I have to like the Pirates to win their second straight, so look for them to cover the runline and win the moneyline.

The other two teams still in the hunt are the Brewers and the Phillies, who are two and a half and three games back of the second Wild Card spot respectively. These two were all but dead a couple of months ago, but have gotten hot and are now right in the thick of things.

The Brewers are entering the rubber match with the NY Mets today and will send out late season call-up, Wily Peralta against Chris Young. Peralta is 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in three career starts and Young is 4-7 on the year with a 4.39 ERA. I like the Brewers to cover the -1.5 runline in this one with a young pitcher trying to prove himself in a Wild Card race where you know the Brews will be motivated.

The Phillies will also have a big edge today as they send out Roy Halladay (10-7, 4.01 ERA) against Houston’s Jordan Lyles (4-11, 5.31 ERA). Also look for them to win and cover the -1.5 runline.