If Ya Gotta Lose (And You Do), Lose That Game

The regular season is about to wrap up for 2011, and there are still a few unanswered questions. Among them, who will join the Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Philles and New York Yankees in the playoffs? Perhaps a more important question to you or I is: Will the St. Louis Cardinals be among those who play in October this year?

If you’re a numbers person, it’s becoming less and less complicated to see what needs to happen in order for St. Louis to break through. Of course, the Cardinals fate will be determined in large part, by the Atlanta Braves, which isn’t an ideal situation for the redbirds. Going into Friday’s action, if the Cards win 4 of their last 6, and the Braves lose 4 of their last 6, game #163 between the Cardinals and Braves would be in St. Louis (presumably on Thursday). A win or loss here or there one way or the other, and you can probably figure out how things shake out. But, as I’ve said for weeks now, the Cardinals have to win their games, which is the only part of the equation they have any control over anyway, and hope other teams can help them out along the way.

Albert Pujols scores on a close play at the plate in Cincinnati

Which brings me to Thursday’s loss to the Mets. What a disappointing way to lose a baseball game, huh? If you missed it, New York put up a serious number in the 9th to come back from a 6-2 deficit, and win the game 8-6 over St. Louis. In ways, it was remnant of so many other games we’ve seen out of this team in 2011. Hold the opponent to one run through the first 7 innings, and give up 7 runs in the last two innings. A really nice outing by Jake Westbrook was wasted, and the redbirds slipped to two games behind Atlanta in the Wild Card race.

The Cardinals had won 12 of their last 14 games, with 7 left to play as they headed into Thursday’s matinee. Winning 12 of 14 hadn’t happened for this team in a long, long time. Expecting to win 19 of the last 21 would be something that even the most optimistic Cardinals fan would have a hard time with. So, you have to figure the Cards were going to lose at least one more time this season. With Atlanta having the day off, I’d submit that they timed their loss quite well.

Obviously, I don’t condone coughing up a 6-2 lead when you’re at home in the ninth inning, several things have gone wrong if that happens. I also don’t condone having your shortstop commit very costly errors on back-to-back days when you’re in the hunt for a playoff spot. I’m just saying that although being one game back is better than being two games back, it’s better to lose a game when the team you’re chasing if off, and can’t rub proverbial salt in the wound you’ve made for yourself.
As others have pointed out: Whether the Cardinals won or lost on Thursday, it was still going to be their job to win the next game. And the next one, and the one after that. While the Cards host the Cubs, the Braves will have to face the Nationals–including Steven Strasburg tonight. Once the current series wraps up, the Cardinals head to Houston to face the 100+ loss Astros, and the Braves end their regular season against the Phillies. Since the National League playoffs are scheduled to start on Saturday, it seems Roy Halladay will pitch on Sunday, setting the Braves up to face Cliff Lee on Monday, and Tuesday & Wednesday’s PHI starters still TBD.

It still shapes up very favorably for the Cards if they can capitalize, and win their games. Atlanta is trying to give them the Wild Card spot for the postseason, and if they don’t take it, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves. THIS, my friends, will be an exciting weekend in Cardinal Nation!

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