The NL Wild Card chase is a little more open than that of the Junior Circuit. Let's say there are six teams in playoff hunt and/or picture that aren't leading their divisions at the moment. The Nationals, Cubs, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Brewers, and Mets are all above .500 and within four games of the second Wild Card. What puts a team over the top?
4. The Ability to Protect Christian Yelich
Last year's NL MVP has been pretty much neck-and-neck with Cody Bellinger all year, but the Brewers' offense has not gotten to his level in terms of pure hitting. Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal, Eric Thames, and Ryan Braun have all produced power and runs, but Yelich is the only Brewer even hitting over .260 (no one's approaching his .326 average) in over 100 games.
3. The Mets vs. the Contenders
The Nationals series in mid-August brought the loudest Citi Field crowd in probably three years. By taking two of three and later sweeping the Indians, the Mets looked poised for October. Yet, back-to-back home sweeps at the hands of the Braves and Cubs, respectively, almost proved the doubters who reasoned an easier schedule was the cause of the Mets' winning steak correct. Well, they have one of the toughest Septembers of any team, so let's see.
2. Replacing Jake Arrieta
Philadelphia had a pitching problem entering 2019, maintained it all the way through the season, and have now arrived in September without Jake Arrieta (bone spurs, surgery), though he never really showed up in '19 to begin with. Does Philly have an ace in the hole to finally step up and fill their rotation gap? It's not Drew Smyly, is it? Without a reliable secondary option, Philadelphia isn't making up the necessary ground. If someone gets wildly hot, they have a shot.
1. Sean Doolittle
Speaking of that Nationals-Mets series, Doolittle has had an uncharacteristic season, where the Mets, in particular, have torched him. He has 28 saves, which is not bad, but his ERA is 4.25, higher than that of each of the Nationals' starters. It's not all his fault, though. The only Washington reliever to pitch in 20 or more games and have an ERA below four is Fernando Rodney, who was on the A's until June.