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Analysts Have Cardinals in WC Game, but the NL Race Is Still Tight Entering September

The Cardinals were four games behind the Cubs in the NL Central Wednesday morning with the latter riding a six-game winning streak. Not to say the Cards won’t catch the the Cubbies, but winning a wild card is still looking like the Birds’ best October route.

And Despite the Cards seemingly winning August ballgames at will, four other teams have managed to stay in the NL Wild Card hunt, with the Birds just +1.5 in the lead as of this writing. That’s lots of traffic without much separation, which should make for an interesting September for the Cards, Brewers, Phillies, Dodgers and Rockies faithful.

Who should we bank on seeing? Smart money keeps pointing to Mike Shildt’s Cardinals, who’ve swept the talent-rich Dodgers in LA and taken five of seven from Colorado over the past month. Not to mention all the other series they’ve won in-between.

These facts notwithstanding, all aforementioned clubs are still very much alive and kicking. MLB Network analyst and former Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd recently told ‘The Kevin Wheeler Show’ he sees it coming down to the wire.

“I think it’s going to come down to the last 10 days of the season,” O’Dowd said. “I think Colorado’s in there; Arizona’s in there; the Dodgers are in there. I don’t know how that division’s going to flesh itself out. I think Milwaukee really needed to add a starting pitcher. I think they’ve hurt themselves in not doing that.

“(The NL race) is great for the game of baseball,” O’Dowd added. “The American League doesn’t really have that, but, honestly, none of these teams can afford to go 3-10 or 2-8 in any kind of streak at all. If they do that, then they’re more than likely going to knock themselves out of contention.”

Subbing for Bernie this week, Anthony Stalter and Jeremy Rutherford asked expert analyst Joe Sheehan to put a handicap on the race, to which Joe doubled down on his original picks from April.

“I had the Cardinals and Brewers in the Wild Card game, so I’m inclined to say it will be the Cardinals and Brewers in the Wild Card game,” Sheehan said. “Keep in mind that 10 days ago I was telling you the Nationals were going to win the National League East, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

“The Dodgers, to me, have the most talent. They actually still have the best run differential in the league and their problems the last couple weeks have been in the bullpen,” Sheehan added. “I think that because of that front-line talent, especially with how they added Manny Machado, the Dodgers are going to get it together. They’ll be one of the teams in the postseason. I think their path is still through the (NL West) division title.

Sheehan also pointed to the Brewers’ pitching as a potential red flag, but still sees them opposing the Birds in a one-game playoff.

“The Diamondbacks, Brewers and Cardinals, to me, are the three teams you have to worry about for that wild card,” he said. “I’m sticking with my preseason prediction. I’m a little concerned about that Brewers pitching staff. They were thin all year; they’ve had injuries. We’ve started to see the bullpen fall apart a little bit that was such a strength for them.”

Stay connected with 101 ESPN and 101Sports.com for plenty more NL Wild Card talk as the season unfolds.

More: Cardinals Name Mike Shildt 50th Manager in Team History