Wild race heating up in National League
Rox not scoreboard watching while holding off contenders
SAN FRANCISCO -- It might seem like the National League Wild Card race has been revving its engine for weeks now -- and that's because it has, injecting more drama into this September than any other postseason quest.But, in reality, this is a race that's just now peeling out and getting off the starting line, with the car in purple and black leading the pack, the car in orange and black drafting right behind and a couple of entries from the East staying on the lead lap. While the frontrunning Rockies and the pursuing Giants have been tussling at the top of the Wild Card standings for the better part of the second half of the regular season, they've seen the last of each other now, with the Rockies holding on for dear life and a 4-3 victory at AT&T Park on Wednesday in their final meeting of the season. All things considered, Rockies manager Jim Tracy stopped himself from calling it a must-win. Barely. "Any time you're ahead and you know you're still going to have a lead, I wouldn't call that a must-win," Tracy said. "As far as I'm concerned, as we're going forward, that's the closest thing you can get to a must-win." And now the race is both closer to its conclusion but still very much up in the air, and at least it's an actual race in a September that's lacking a whole lot of thunder otherwise. While every other race in baseball has a separation of at least 4 1/2 games, the Wild Card race has four teams within five games, including the Marlins and Braves from the NL East. The main number and the only one that matters, however, is the 3 1/2-game lead the Rockies now hold, which is a lot better than the alternative if the Giants had rallied all the way back in the ninth Wednesday. "Oh, 3 1/2 definitely sounds better in your head than 1 1/2 does," said Todd Helton, the Rockies' veteran first baseman. Certainly, the Rockies know a little something about making the Wild Card race exciting. Remember, they concluded the 2007 season by winning 14 of their last 15, including a tiebreaker game over the Padres by Matt Holliday's fingernail across home plate. But Helton's not reminiscing back to that run these days. He's not poring over the schedule ahead, either. "You have to look at the small picture, not the big picture," Helton said. "You need to focus on that game and don't get caught up in looking at scoreboards or anything like that."
|Here is how the rest of the Wild Card race shapes up for the top five teams in contention, with number of home and road games and the cumulative winning percentage of each team's opponents:|
COL (15): at ARI, vs. SD, vs. STL, vs. MIL, at LAD
SF (16): at LAD, at ARI, vs. CHC (4), vs. ARI, at SD
FLA (16): at CIN, vs. PHI, vs. NYM, at ATL, at PHI
ATL (17): vs. NYM (1), vs. PHI, at NYM, vs. FLA, vs. WAS
CHC (18): vs. MIL (1), at STL, at MIL, at SF (4), vs. PIT, vs. ARI
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.