One win. One stupid additional win at any point during the first 159 games of the 2018 Cardinals season and this final series with the Cubs would feel remarkably different. On the other hand, I suppose, turn one of their 87 wins into a loss and things for all intents and purposes would be finished so maybe it’s a wash. Hard to look at the bright side though after a deflating sweep against Milwaukee which took the Cardinals’ playoff odds from near 80 percent to “yeah, this is going to be tough,” so I won’t judge anyone wearing the doom and gloom glasses right now.
Heading into Chicago, here as I see it are the possible scenarios for this weekend:
Worst case scenario
This is obvious. The Cardinals win one game, or no games, and they’re eliminated from the postseason while having to watch the Cubs celebrate another NL Central title. That would be bad, especially since that very thing happened last season, too. I don’t remember enjoying that.
And it would eliminate a lot of goodwill the club has compiled during the early Mike Shildt era. I won’t speak for you, but I’m not going to feel that great heading into the offseason if the team is still stuck on 87 (or 88) wins, and that was sort of the point of all of that winning in August in the first place, right? Like even if the Cardinals weren’t able to scratch their way into extra baseball at least we were getting a glimpse of the foundation going forward. In reality, a couple of games shouldn’t alter that perception – whether you think the team is in a good place for the future or not – but it will be hard to not feel like all of the air was let out of the balloon.
A not perfect but not awful scenario
The Cardinals win several games this weekend, but so do the Rockies and Dodgers and the Cardinals are left at home. BUT Milwaukee sweeps the Tigers (not at all implausible) and the Cubs are relegated to the Wild Card game. That would be fun. That would mean during this golden era of Cubs dominance of the NL Central only two actual NL Central titles for the Northsiders. Laaaaame.
A pretty good scenario
The Cardinals win several games this weekend and make the postseason over the Dodgers and then head to Milwaukee for the Wild Card game (or first are tasked with a play-in game of some variety). I’ll take it.
Best case scenario
Again, pretty obvious. The Cardinals sweep the Cubs. The Giants beat up on the Dodgers, and what the hell, the Nationals sweep the Rockies (wouldn’t really matter if the Cardinals finish with a better record than the Dodgers but whatever). And, the Brewers sweep the Tigers making Wrigley the scene for a Cards-Cubs Wild Card game. The Cardinals wouldn’t even have to go home. And, maybe I’m crazy, but right now I’d rather play the Cubs than the Brewers in a winner take-all game.
As is customary, the best case scenario is also the least likely but the Cardinals should go ahead and do their part anyway.
That’s it. Just three games left. Maybe you’re ready for it to be over but at the very least know that the Cardinals played in meaningful games until the very end and that’s not trivial. And today could be Adam Wainwright’s last start as a Cardinal. Let’s not forget that.
From the archives:
Per FanGraphs, here are the projected starters and the Cardinals’ win probability.
All games start in the early afternoon.