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The Cardinals no longer control their own destiny

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the possible paths the Cardinals could take to the playoffs. At the time, the playoff odds were at 22.9%, according to Fangraphs. Eight days later, the odds had risen 0.2%. As described in this version of A Hunt and Peck, we were about to witness a “mad dash to the end of the season.” After that, the Cardinals split their remaining two games against the Reds and were swept by the Cubs.

The times when the NL Central Chicago team was “Completely Useless By September” are over. As it currently stands, the Cardinals are 6 games out of the division lead and 4.5 games out of the second wild card spot. Suffice it so say, the outlook is bleak. With their elimination number at 8, the chance the Cardinals win the division is a petite 2.9%. With 13 games remaining, even if the Cardinals went undefeated, the Cubs could go 8-5 to win the division.

The elimination number for the wild card race, 9, doesn't provide significantly better news. Again, assuming the Cardinals go undefeated the rest of the way, the Rockies could clinch a playoff spot with 9 wins.

To say that the Cardinals no longer control their own destiny would be correct.

Numbers aside, if you want to go by the eye test, the Cardinals don’t pass. What team contending for a playoff spot in mid to late September gets swept by their opponents competing for the same spot?

The frustrations remind me of this rant from Jim Mora. “Playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game.” After getting swept by the Cubs, this team just needs to start winning.

Without closing the door on the season—stranger things have and will happen than a situation in which the Cardinals make the playoffs in 2017—there have been ample opportunities even in the last month for the Redbirds to pick up a game here and a game there.

On August 24th, against the cellar-dwelling Padres, Carlos Martinez pitched a gem, only to have Sam Tuivailala give up the lead in the ninth, losing by one run.

Three days later on the 27th, the Cardinals were in extra innings against the sub-.500 Tamp Bay Rays. They would lose this game by one run as well.

On the penultimate day of August, against a Brewers team also battling for a playoff spot, the Cardinals maddeningly lost another game by just one run.

After another three days passed, there was more of the same. This time, blowing a one run lead and losing to the last place Giants.

Certainly, you can't expect to win every one run game. And much has been made about Matheny’s bullpen management—even as recently as yesterday here at Viva El Birdos.

Had the Cardinals won three of the above four games, they would sit a game ahead of the Brewers and only a game and a half out of the wild card. While dealing with hypotheticals can be fun, in this case, it only serves to frustrate a fanbase that has endured what seems to be an endless 2017 rollercoaster.

The St. Louis team this year has not been consistent enough in any aspect of the game to merit a playoff berth. Although we, as fans, have been incredibly lucky to see so many meaningful baseball games over the past 7 years, it would surprise none of us if the last five or so games of the season don't matter. And if the Cardinals don't start winning now, they won't.