Tracy Ringolsby

Breaking down the NL Wild Card race

Breaking down the NL Wild Card race

Oh, those Dodgers. First three weeks of the season, they actually gave the rest of the National League West hope.

Now look at them. These Dodgers -- who stumbled to 11 losses in their first 20 games and were actually five games out of first place just three weeks into the season -- have turned the divisional race into a mockery. With 70 wins in their past 21 games they have opened up a 15 1/2 game lead on the second-place Rockies, and 16 games up on the third-place D-backs.

All, however, is not lost. The Wild Card has become the salvation for other NL contenders.

Take the Rockies and the D-backs: two teams that haven't blown open the NL Wild Card, but are well in control of their own postseason destinies. Colorado sits atop the battle for the NL Wild Card, a half-game up on Arizona, which has a 5 1/2 game lead on Milwaukee for the second spot.

The fact that the Rockies and D-backs are so far removed from any bid for a divisional title but have control of the two Wild Card spots underscores the Dodgers' dominance. It also is as strong an endorsement as possible for the Wild Card, because it does give fans in at least a couple cities postseason hope.

Just a couple, though. Other than the three divisional leaders, there are only three NL teams with winning records: the Rockies, D-backs and Brewers, although the Cardinals are at .500 and the Pirates are two games shy.

Breaking down what lies ahead in the NL Wild Card race:

Rockies (64-48)
Colorado is off to the best start in franchise history and did spend a club-record 67 games in first place before a late June-early August swoon. The Rockies play 25 of their final 50 games at home, and 28 of them against teams with a losing record.

The challenge: They have 14 games in September against the D-backs and Dodgers, playing back-to-back four-game series at Los Angeles (Sept. 7-10) and Arizona (Sept. 11-14). The Rockies also host the D-backs Sept. 1-3, and finish the regular series with three games against the Dodgers at Coors Field.

D-backs (63-48)
The upstart D-backs have been among the top three in the NL West since Opening Day, but they have spent only 18 days in first place, the fewest of the top three NL West teams. They have 27 of their final 51 games at home, but play 26 games against teams with a winning record, including nine with the Dodgers, seven with the Rockies, four with the Astros and three with both the Cubs and Royals.

The challenge: The next 10 games are all against first-place teams, with three each against the Dodgers and Cubs, and four against the Astros.

Brewers (59-55)
Milwaukee has seen what was a 5 1/2-game lead in the NL Central on July 15 turn into a 1 1/2-game deficit to the Cubs, going 7-14 in that stretch, including dropping two of three to Chicago at home.

The challenge: The Brewers have a nine-game road trip Aug. 18-27 with three games each against the Rockies, Giants and Dodgers. Milwaukee lost three of four at home to open the season against Colorado, and is 12-22 at Coors Field the past two years. As much as the Giants have struggled this year, they did split four games in Milwaukee, and the Brewers are 11-20 at AT&T Park the past 10 seasons, including being swept in three games in 2014 and '16. The Dodgers won two of three in Milwaukee earlier this year, and the Brewers are 17-14 at Dodger Stadium the past 10 years, but lost five of seven the past two years.

Cardinals (55-56)
St. Louis hasn't been above .500 since June 1, but it has been able to hang around the fringes of the Wild Card race. The Cardinals do have 27 of their final 50 games on the road, where they are 23-30 so far this year.

The challenge: The Cards are 20-28 within the NL Central, and they play their final 22 games within the division, including seven against the Cubs -- three at Wrigley Sept. 15-17 and four at home Sept. 25-28, before hosting the Brewers in a three-game series to end the regular season.

Pirates (54-57)
Pittsburgh had a run last month where it went from a season-worst nine games below .500, on July 3, to a season-high one game above, on July 21, winning 12 of 14 games. But it has lost nine of 15 since, falling two games below .500.

The challenge: From Aug. 28 through Sept. 20, the Pirates play 13 of 19 games against the division-rival Cubs (7) and Brewers (6). The Bucs also have four-game series remaining against the NL West-leading Dodgers (at home Aug. 21-24) and at Washington to finish the regular season.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.