Bright Spots And Last Gasps

As the 2011 season winds down, the St. Louis Cardinals’ hopes for postseason play dwindle with every passing day.

Photo Courtesy of Erika Lynn

To put it in perspective, the Cardinals were 10.5 games back of the Brewers going into the three game series at Milwaukee at the end of August. It was the beginning of a stretch where the Cards were playing the Brew Crew in six of their upcoming nine games. The Cardinals won five of those six games. Can’t ask for much more than that, especially considering the Cards swept the series at Miller Park. But the series in the middle was won by the Reds, and the Brewers didn’t miss a beat in sweeping the Astros in Houston. Going into action Friday, Milwaukee’s lead in the NL Central was still eight games.

It seems even when the Cardinals win, they can’t win.

But it was a real treat to be in attendance Wednesday night at Busch Stadium. Chris Carpenter hurled a masterpiece, tempers heated up when Nyjer Morgan offered up another dose of crazy, and the Cards won to end the season series with the Brewers at .500 (9-9). That’s something, I guess.

A bit of a side conversation about the Cardinals’ chances at the Wild Card has been going on for a few weeks, and the Atlanta Braves come to Busch Stadium with the lead in that category, too. But for the Cards to have even a chance at catching the Braves, they have to sweep them this weekend. It also helps that the Brewers are hosting the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend. If the Phils take care of business in Milwaukee and the Cards take care of business at home, the race could still be borderline interesting. Is it possible? Sure. But if winning five of six head-to-head against the Brewers barely made a dent, can we even expect a miracle at this point?

Maybe this weekend is the Cards’ one last shot at postseason play. Maybe they have one big run in them still, like the Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros of years past. But even if they don’t, the team can still be fun to watch. They still have guys named Carpenter and Pujols and Holliday and Molina taking the field every day. They’re not a bad team; they never were. They just played bad baseball too many times this season. The Cardinals will still finish above .500 on the year, which I suppose is an accomplishment considering they got a total of zero innings pitched from Adam Wainwright this year and blew 23 saves as a team to this point.

Still, making excuses helps no one. Every team faces adversity; some rise above it and others fall short. And every year is different. Sometimes an 83-win team wins the World Series, and sometimes a 90-win team doesn’t even make the playoffs. The Cardinals are likely to fall somewhere in between and have a real good chance of watching October baseball from their couches at home.

But it ain’t over ’til it’s over. If you need me, I’ll be on my couch watching the game.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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