St. Louis Cardinals prepare for pivotal rematch with San Diego Padres

May 14, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter (L) forces out San Diego Padres catcher Austin Nola (26) at second base and throws to first base late attempting to complete a double play during the second inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
May 14, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter (L) forces out San Diego Padres catcher Austin Nola (26) at second base and throws to first base late attempting to complete a double play during the second inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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The St. Louis Cardinals welcome the San Diego Padres to town this weekend for a three-game set with massive playoff implications.

The St. Louis Cardinals might have their most pivotal series of the entire season this week. Having just taken the lead the wild card race, they welcome the San Diego Padres for three games this weekend in what could ultimately determine their postseason fate.

If you remember back to the beginning of the summer, this Padres series is eerily familiar. On May 13, the Cardinals wrapped up a difficult and intense three-game set against the Brewers. They followed up that trip by a disheartening sweep at the hands of San Diego, culminating in a 5-3 loss on Sunday Night Baseball in front of a national audience.

Before that series, the Cardinals were 23-15. They had the second-best record in baseball and were flying high. When the series ended, the Padres had passed the Cardinals in the standings, where they had remained at least half a game ahead of the Cardinals for the entirety of the summer.

Now, the reverse seems to be occurring. The Cardinals are streaking, having won seven of their last eight games. The Padres, on the other hand, have lost five of their last seven games entering Thursday. When the Cardinals came to town in May, they had just grinded out a series win against the now division leading Brewers. The Padres have just been decimated by their division rival Dodgers and MLB-leading San Francisco Giants.

The parallels over an 162-game season are eerie. In May, the Padres had been hit by a COVID outbreak and were struggling with injuries to Manny Machado and other big names. Once again, San Diego is struggling with injuries. Blake Snell is out as the rotation has been decimated by injuries. MVP candidate Fernando Tatis Jr. briefly moved to the outfield. Jake Cronenworth has a small fracture in his left ring finger.

On the flip side, a lot has changed for both squads. In May, the starting pitching matchups were Joe Musgrove vs Johan Oviedo, Chris Paddack vs Adam Wainwright, and Ryan Weathers vs Kwang-Hyun Kim. This weekend, the matchups are Vince Velasquez vs Miles Mikolas, Yu Darvish vs Adam Wainwright, and Jake Arrieta vs (most likely) J.A. Happ. Once again, it is only the 40-year old superstar that makes his mark in both events.

A baseball season is quite a journey, but the paths of the Cardinals and Padres seemed fated to intersect. Take a look at this tweet from three days ago – each team has played a few games since they were tied on Tuesday, but the similarities between these two wild-card hunters are overwhelming:

After last year’s wildcard round, are the Padres and Cardinals now rivals? Will one squad take this opportunity to send the other out of the playoff race? The Padres have been struggling while the Cardinals are soaring high, but there’s no question the talent on both teams.

The Cardinals have a chance to reverse their fortunes from that pivotal trip to San Diego in May. After moving ahead of the Padres in the standings for the first time in four months, the Cardinals can really take a grip of the last playoff spot. This is the chance they have been fighting for all season, and it’s coming at a great time.

Next. Cardinals’ Lars Nootbaar just filed for the perfect trademark. dark

There’s been a lot to digest this season with the ups and downs that the Cardinals have gone through. At the end of the day, however, they have a great opportunity this weekend to make a playoff statement. Meaningful September baseball. That’s all you can ask for.

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