For the majority of the 2021 MLB season it looked like the National League Wild Card game would be between two teams from the West, but now that might not be the case.
At the start of play on Saturday there is a tie for the second wild card spot between the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds. Both teams hold a 67-57 record, which is surprising for both.
The Padres and Reds have not been running stride for stride with each other for most of the season. Instead, it has been a steady rise for one a fall for the other.
How They Got Here
First Two Months
A lot has happened since the last day of May, but looking back gives a better understanding of where these teams once were.
At the start of the third month of the regular season the Reds sat in fourth place in the NL Central with a 24-28 record. The Padres were in second place by half a game in the extremely competitive NL West with a record of 34-21. The Padres had the second best record in the NL whereas the Reds were at number 10.
Both teams had some excellent bats which were in the MVP talks. The Reds had Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker, but all of the attention was on the Padres young star Fernando Tatis Jr. The major factor for the difference in record was pitching. The Padres had ace Yu Darvish pitching at his best, but the Reds former ace Luis Castillo was struggling to find a win.
Up Until the All-Star Break
As another full month passed there was not a whole ton of shifting for these two teams.
The Reds were still struggling to break the .500 barrier as they sat 8.0 games behind first with a 39-40 record. On the other hand, the Padres were still rolling with a 49-33 record sitting 2.5 back from first.
Things really started to shift once July began. In the 11 games prior to the All-Star break the Reds broke out from under .500 as they won nine of those games. They were suddenly sitting in second place at 48-42, only four back from first.
Over in the west things were getting a lot more difficult for the Padres who were still playing well but were struggling to keep pace with the San Fransisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. They did not perform so well in the first half of July as they only won four of their 11 games.
Post All-Star Break
Over the next month following the All-Star break these two teams went in polar opposite directions, yet it was not an immediate shift.
The Padres started the second about as well as is possible. In the first game of the second half they demolished the Washington Nationals 24-8 and won the next game 10-4. The Reds started the second half at home against the Milwaukee Brewers in hopes of gaining some ground, but were swept and then followed that up by losing two of three to the New York Mets.
These trends abruptly switched for both of them. The Reds dominated their next five series as they went 12-4 scoring an average of 6.4 runs per game. The Padres did not find the same success. Following their incredible outpour of runs they only went 5-7 to finish July.
Over the first half of August the Reds have been winning at a steady rate which has helped them to tie the Padres with their incredible drop off.
It was not a terrible start to the month for the Padres who began 6-2, but since has gone 1-8 which included losing three of four to the very poor Arizona Diamondbacks and getting swept by the Colorado Rockies. In those nine games their offense has only been able to muster up an average of 2.33 runs per game. Their pitching has allowed just over six runs per game including five of seven or more runs.
On the other side, the Reds have gone 12-7 to quickly move up the ranks. In those 12 wins they scored an average of 7.83 runs per game which is incredibly impressive. Their pitching has also been lock down. Over those 19 games they are allowing 3.89 runs per game.
The Padres have struggled in all areas. Their offense has been nearly non-existent and their entire pitching staff from starters all the way through the bullpen has lost the ability to slow their opposing offenses. The Reds have seemed to find reliable pitchers in the big moments and their star bats have not disappointed.
The Final Stretch
As if out of nowhere the Reds have shot up and the Padres have fallen off a cliff and are suddenly sitting in a tie for the second wild card spot.
Looking ahead both teams have only 38 games remaining which is plenty of time for the Padres to break out the big bats or for the Reds pitching staff to fail.
Both of these teams have hitters like Fernando Tatis jr. and Joey Votto who can power these teams to a victory every game, but what it most likely will come down to is pitching which has been a highly concerning topic for both teams all season.
So much has happened in less than three weeks to start the month of August which just shows how crazy baseball can be. It is definitely feasible that these two could face off in a game 163 to determine who gets the second Wild Card spot. A lot has to happen before than can be considered as a true possibility.
At this point it is not clear which of these two will claim a playoff spot, but it is a guarantee that the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres are going to play their hearts out in order to play in October.
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