National League Wild Card Standings
One game back.
Three games to play.
On Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals led the New York Mets 6-2 heading into the top of the ninth inning. The Redbirds sat just a 1.5 games back of the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves. Despite having a healthy four-run lead, Cardinals field manager Tony La Russa turned to unnamed closer Jason Motte to close out the victory. Motte could not seal the deal. Nor could his colleagues in the bullpen Marc Rzepczinski or Fernando Salas. The Mets plated six runs on the trio of relievers and stole a crucial win from the Cardinals. What would have been a 1.0-game lead for Atlanta had yawned to 2.0 games without Atlanta throwing pitch or plating a run. The Cardinals had handed Atlanta an extra half-game in the standings with a mere six to play.
Has ever a WPA graph so accurately tracked the collective psyche of a fan base as this one? According to Cool Standings, this heartbreaking loss caused the Cardinals' playoff chances to fall from 34.6 percent to 24.6 percent.
It would only grow worse the following evening. On Friday, the rival Cubs came to town. A tight game throughout, the Cubs broke open a 1-1 game off of Kyle McClellan, a reliever so trusted by field manager Tony La Russa. The Cubs would wind up winning the game 4-1. So dire was the St. Louis playoff outlook that Chicago pitcher Matt Garza was openly shouting an inquiry to the Cardinals, how did it feel to eff themselves out of the playoffs? Garza was not far off the mark. A 24.6 percent playoff chance tumbled to just 6.4 percent after the Friday loss. But the Cubs, who had effed the Cards' playoff hopes on Friday, would aid the cardiac Cards as they once again pulled themselves back from the brink of playoff elimination and into the thick of a playoff race.
Wins on Saturday and Sunday against the Cubs, when coupled with Atlanta losses, breathed new life into the Cardinals' Wild Card hopes. What had been a 3.0-game lead on Saturday morning is a 1.0-game heading into action today. What had been a 6.4 percent playoff chance has grown to 36.5 percent today--the highest it has been for the Cardinals since August 8. Such is the emotional rollercoaster that is being a Cardinal fan in 2011.
One game game in the Wild Card.
Three games to play.
MON: Cliff Lee vs. Randolph Delgado
TUE: Roy Oswalt vs. Derek Lowe
WED: TBA vs. Tim Hudson
Here are the probable pitching match-ups for the Cardinals in their final series of the season against the Houston Astros:
MON: Jaime Garcia vs. Wandy Rodgriguez
WED: Chris Carpenter vs. Brett Meyers
The table is set. The final three games of the season will determine whether the roller coaster ride that has been the 2011 season will give us one more thrill or one more letdown. Hopefully the playoff chances continue to creep upwards. Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure. I'm not going to be missing a pitch.