NL Wild Card Race Favors Phils
Late-season scheduling is doing the Phillies flickering playoff hopes some favors, well beyond the 39 remaining games on their slate.
Just so happens that the five teams between them and October have it pretty tough, making climbing that 10-game wild card hole seem somewhat possible.
The current NL Wild Card position holders, Atlanta and St. Louis, have it the easiest. But the teams in pursuit have considerable challenges.
Atlanta has 23 games against teams with a combined .448 win percentage ahead, the only competition coming from three games apiece against the Nationals, Pirates and Phillies.
St. Louis has 18 games against teams with a .400 combined win percentage, including nine straight against the godawful Astros (40-88) and Cubs (49-77). The 14 others, though, are considerably tougher. The Cardinals have the Nationals (seven games), Dodgers (four games) and Reds (three games), two of those having the Nos. 1 and 2 best records in the sport, the other having just acquired $250 million in payroll and, presumably, talent.
Speaking of those Dodgers (1.5 games out of wild card), they might have the toughest trek here.
The cupcake part of their slate accounts for just 12 games and against opponents with a .431 win percentage. The rest comes from tilts with the Giants and Diamondbacks (six games apiece), Cardinals (four) and Nationals and Reds (three), for a 22-game chunk versus .554 competition.
Having not made the playoffs, or even finished with a winning record, since 1993, the Pirates (2.0 games) seem iffy contenders in 2012, coming back down to earth after a remarkable start for a homey 65-58 mark.
Though Pittsburgh does get 23 games the rest of the way against .401 percent competition.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks (6.5 games back), who dumped Joe Saunders (7.04 ERA in August) for relief help in Matt Lindstrom, have a grueling 10-game gamut starting tonight against the Reds, Dodgers and Giants, teams with a combined .561 win percentage, with eight more against the LA and San Francisco.
The Phillies luck out in that, of the tougher tilts remaining, only the Reds (three games) are out-of-division foes and don't directly affect the division and wild card races.
Making up only a game after sweeping the Nationals over the weekend, the Phillies have a 13-game stretch against teams with a .399 win percentage, and six more games against the Mets and Marlins that make for 19 games against teams with a .416 win percentage.
Needless to say, the Phillies are going to have to eat it up on the field the rest of the way to even have a shot. But the table seems set for a miracle.