The National League Wildcard race has come down to 3 teams. Currently the St Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds have a huge edge as they lead the race by 5 games, but the Arizona Diamondbacks are showing that they are willing to fight and claw their way back in as they play the same way their manager did when he played.
MLB experts had the D-Backs listed as 2nd favorites to win the N.L. West, but they looked like they’d win the division outright for the majority of the season. A ridiculous run by the Los Angeles Dodgers has sent Arizona from division leaders to 7.5 games in the hole in the West. This squad had every right to fold up and wave the white flag after falling from grace so quickly, but a recent surge has put them back in it. A 4 game set against the team their trailing for the last wildcard spot (Cincy) could be an enormous factor in how the D-Backs finish.
Tuesday’s starters present what promises to be a closely contested battle as they each thrown well over the course of the season. Arizona sends their “Ace” Patrick Corbin to the hill in what could potentially be a season saving game. Corbin has essentially come out of nowhere after posting a 6-8 record with a 4.54 earned run average in his rookie season last year. However, he has seemingly figured something out in 2013 as he continues to dominate National League line-ups posting a 12-3 record with an ERA of less than 2.50. Having a WHIP of less than 1.05 is tremendous considering posted a 1.33 in 2012. Walking batters is not an issue, but it’s his ability to get out of jams that has taken him to the next level. Facing a Reds batting order that is 13th in baseball in runs scored will not be Corbin’s toughest test of the season, but the situation makes it one of the most important.
Cincy has won this season with a balanced attack that is as consistent as they come. They’re offense isn’t quite where they would like it to be, but Joey Votto and company can still get the job done when the game is on the line. What has saved them is their pitching. What makes this pitching staff even more impressive is that they’ve essentially done it without the services of their best starter Johnny Cueto. Cueto has been sidelined with a lat strain for most of the year, and is still a long way from being back in the rotation. Fortunately, Mike Leake and Mat Latos have been nothing short of awesome this year as they have combined for a 22-9 record. The real difference maker this season has been the starts that they’ve got from Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey. All 4 of these starters have ERA’s below 3.70, and make it hard for the opposition to score every time they’re on the mound.
Cueto’s fill-in Tony Cingrani has been an important piece to Cincy’s puzzle. His 6-2 record is impressive, but not as much so as his 111 strikeouts in 94 innings. He takes the ball Tuesday against Corbin and the Diamondbacks, and should give up a fight based on his previous performances. MLB handicappers will have the Reds listed as slight home favorites for this pitching duel. Tune in as the Reds and Diamondbacks fight to get a leg up in what promises to be a closely contest battle for the final spot in the National League Wildcard race.