NL wild-card race: The upcoming week for Reds, Padres, Cardinals, Phillies and Mets

Bobby Nightengale
Cincinnati Enquirer

ST. LOUIS – The final playoff spot in the National League is there for the taking, but no team is stepping up to grab it.

The Cincinnati Reds have lost 12 of their last 18 games and dropped six consecutive series. The San Diego Padres are 7-13 in their last 20 games, swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend. The St. Louis Cardinals took two of three games against the Reds, but that’s the only team they’ve beat in a series since Aug. 15.

Sep 12, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) tosses his bat after striking out to end the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets are hanging around in the wild-card race, but they’re both hovering around .500.

It’ll be a three-week sprint to the finish line and there are five teams separated by three games in the NL wild-card race. Here’s a look at how the week shapes up for the wild-card contenders:

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SAN DIEGO PADRES (74-68, tied)

San Diego Padres relief pitcher Craig Stammen (34) reacts after giving up a three run home run against Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts (50) during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 11.

The Padres began their 10-game, 10-day road trip with three losses to the Dodgers. They were overpowered by Dodgers pitchers Julio Urías, Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer, and they lost Blake Snell to a groin injury Sunday.

Next up is a four-game set against the San Francisco Giants, a team that could clinch a playoff spot Monday.

“It’s probably been our low point,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said after Sunday’s 8-0 loss to the Dodgers, “but we have a chance to turn that around. Nothing is going to matter, this pocket, if we can go out and play well for these next three weeks.”

The Padres enter Monday with 10 of their final 20 games against the Giants. It’ll be the first time the division rivals have faced each other since early May.

Monday: RHP Yu Darvish (8-9, 3.95) vs. RHP Dominic Leone (3-3, 1.48).

Tuesday: RHP Jake Arrieta (5-12, 7.04) vs. RHP Anthony DeSclafani (11-6, 3.33).

Wednesday: RHP Joe Musgrove (10-9, 2.93) vs. TBA.

Thursday: RHP Chris Paddack (7-7, 5.07) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (14-5, 2.65).

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CINCINNATI REDS (75-69, tied)

Nick Castellanos and the Reds have 18 games remaining in the regular season, and nine are against the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Reds had a four-run lead in the third inning Saturday with Luis Castillo on the mound with a chance to win the first two games of their weekend series, but they couldn’t hold it. They haven’t won back-to-back games since Aug. 26-27.

As poorly as they’ve played in the past three weeks, they’re fortunate they haven’t slipped much in the wild-card standings. Nine of their final 18 games come against the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.

“In a way, we can control our own destiny,” Sonny Gray said. “I feel good with it. There’s nothing that we need to happen or anything. We’ll go as far as we allow ourselves to go.”

Tuesday: LHP Wade Miley (12-5, 2.89) vs. LHP Dillon Peters (0-2, 3.38).

Wednesday: RHP Vladimir Gutierrez (9-6, 4.05) vs. RHP Mitch Keller (4-11, 6.29).

Thursday: RHP Tyler Mahle (11-5, 3.73) vs. TBA.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (73-69, one game back)

Sep 12, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run during the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals played well enough to keep their postseason hopes alive, splitting their four-game series against the Dodgers and taking two of three against the Reds. Nolan Arenado, their big winter acquisition, is stepping up for their offense with five homers and 12 RBI in his last 10 games.

It’s another big week for St. Louis, traveling to New York for a three-game series against the Mets before returning home for a three-game series against the Padres next weekend.

“This is a team that is hungry and is going to fight,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We’re going to stay together. We’re going to keep preparing and we’re going to get after everybody we play. A talented team and we’re in the last turn around the stretch and we’re ready to go at it.”

Monday: RHP Adam Wainwright (15-7, 2.98) vs. LHP Rich Hill (6-6, 3.82).

Tuesday: RHP Jake Woodford (2-3, 4.28) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (9-12, 2.87).

Wednesday: LHP Jon Lester (5-6, 4.75) vs. RHP Tylor Megill (3-4, 4.06).

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (72-71, two-and-a-half games back)

Aug 13, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Reds second baseman Mike Moustakas (9) reaches second past Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius (18) on a wild pitch during the fourth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies have the softest remaining schedule in the Majors, the Reds rank No. 2, but they haven’t been able to take advantage of it. They dropped three of four games to the Colorado Rockies at home, which included two one-run losses.

“It stunk,” manager Joe Girardi said after Sunday’s loss. “It stunk. There’s no other way to describe it. It stunk.”

The Phillies will play three home games against the Chicago Cubs before a three-game road trip to face the Mets. The Phillies don’t have another series against a team with a record above .500 until facing the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves from Sept. 28-30.

Tuesday: RHP Kyle Gibson (10-6, 3.38) vs. RHP Adrian Sampson (0-2, 2.20).

Wednesday: LHP Ranger Suárez (6-4, 1.38) vs. RHP Alec Mills (6-6, 4.35).

Thursday: TBA vs. RHP Kyle Hendricks (14-6, 4.54).

NEW YORK METS (72-72, three games back)

Aug 1, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; Cincinnati Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (17) slides into third base with a triple in front of New York Mets third baseman Brandon Drury (35) during the sixth inning at Citi Field.

The Mets improved to .500 after winning two of three games in an emotional Subway Series against the crosstown Yankees. Francisco Lindor homered three times Sunday to lead them to a 7-6 victory in their series finale.

They’ll have a chance to make some noise in the playoff race with six more home games this week against the Cardinals and Phillies.

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