The St. Louis Cardinals are right in the middle of a tight NL Playoff race.
Whether or not they deserved it, the St. Louis Cardinals took four out of five games in a long series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Starting with the sweep in the doubleheader Friday, the Cardinals were one bounce, one throw, or one play made away from losing three out of five rather than winning four against the Pirates.
As a whole, the Cards’ outcomes in this series are due much more to the woes of the Pirates than any triumph of the Cardinals. However, a win is a win, and I don’t think enough people appreciate what the Cardinals have done this year.
In a year where the schedule was stacked against them, the Cardinals have come out and performed well enough to be in it to the end. They are not a great offensive team, that much is known. However, they are also playing worn down and tired, making any deficiency look worse than it may actually be.
Now, with eight games left to pay in seven days, the St. Louis Cardinals are in the middle of a murky pool of teams that have just as much of a chance to make the playoffs as any other. While I think the expanded playoffs are a net negative, this final week is going to show off why expanded playoffs can be more fun.
Realistically, there are six teams in the NL vying for four spots in the playoffs. Two-second place finishes are still up for grabs, as are both Wild Card spot.s Let’s see where they all stand.
St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, and the Cincinnati Reds
I am lumping these two teams together because of the shared role they will play in each other’s fate. First, the Cardinals play three games in Kansas City against the Royals. After that, the Brewers come to Busch Stadium for five games over the last four days of the regular season.
While the Cardinals play the Royals, the Brewers face off against the Reds. Both teams are a game back of the Cardinals, but the added wrinkle is that the Reds have played two more games than the Brewers and four more than the Cardinals. More of their fate has already been decided.
The Royals series is a must-win for the Cardinals (at least two of three) to keep that game lead over one of either the Brewers or the Reds. When the final series of the season begins on Thursday, it’ll be an all-out dogfight with the Brewers. The Cardinals will have to hold their own to keep their second spot in the division, and falling flat on their faces could cost them a chance at the postseason altogether.
While the Brewers and Cardinals face off, the Reds will have a tough matchup in the Twins to close out the season.
Of these three teams, it is pretty likely that at least two of them make the playoffs. It will just depend on who gets that higher seed.
Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies
The NL East has been an odd division this year because of how good the Marlins have been. Sitting at three games over .500, the Marlins have a one-game lead on the 27-26 Phillies for the second spot in the East. Unfortunately for them, they play four games against the Braves this week before finishing the year against the Yankees.
On the year, the Marlins are 3-3 against the Braves and have yet to play the Yankees, but it isn’t looking great for them on paper. While they face those tough opponents, the Phillies have to face the bottom-dwelling Washington Nationals then the tough Tampa Bay Rays. It would not be tough to ee the Marlins losing grasp on their one-game lead on the Phillies or being caught by the Brewers or Reds.
While the city of Atlanta would meltdown, the Marlins somehow sweeping the Braves would make for the most fun in the final week, I doubt that happens.
San Francisco Giants
On paper, the Giants are the worst team out of these six. Somehow, they have found a way to sit at .500 coming into this final week.
Sadly for the Giants, they are in a division with the Dodgers and the Padres, both of whom have already clinched playoff spots. the 26-26 Giants only have hope in the Wild Card. They have to play the Rockies and the Padres this final week, so there is still room for them to butt their way in.
The St. Louis Cardinals somehow look to be in a good spot.
At two games above .500, the Cardinals look to be in good shape at this exact moment. However, they have more games to play this week than any other team. The NL Central may cancel itself out in the Wild Card race with so many teams playing against each other.
No matter how it shakes out a week from now, the Cardinals have battled hard. It seems everyone except our own fans are noting this. Nationally, nobody expected the Cardinals to be where they are now. Whether or not they are a good team doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is wins and losses.
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The St. Louis Cardinals may not get the luxury of being a top-six seed in the playoffs, but their odds to make it are good. We know better than most fanbases, sometimes all it takes is just getting in.