The National League playoff field was set on Monday, but the roles are still fluid.
The Washington Nationals saw their longshot wild-card hopes dashed, while the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and — wait 20 years for it — the Pittsburgh Pirates all wrapped up playoff berths. The Atlanta Braves are already in as the National League East winners.
In Los Angeles, it’s getting safe to start sizing up first-round matchups.
So today, for your consideration as a first-round opponent, the Reds.
Their number one starter was supposed to be Johnny Cueto. He won 19 games last season. This season he’s been bothered by a lat strain and missed nearly three months with the injury starting in June. The right-hander came back Sept. 16 and made another impressive start yesterday, but the Reds are hesitant to say if and when Cueto would pitch in the postseason.
If it’s not Cueto, expect Mat Latos to take the ball for Cincinnati first. Latos revealed to the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s been pitching with an abdominal strain since June 30. That’s affected his repertoire, which is now quite fastball-heavy, and has resulted in fewer strikeouts.
The Reds haven’t clinched anything more than a playoff berth, so Latos or Cueto could find themselves pitching in the win-or-go-home wild card game. Either way, the Dodgers will likely be seeing one of these guys in Game 1 of their first-round series if they draw the Reds. That’s got to be more favorable than the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, the Pirates’ Francisco Liriano, or the Braves’ Mike Minor, Julio Teheran or Kris Medlen (all of whom are reportedly under consideration).
In that regard, give the advantage to the Dodgers. And knock on wood.