ACKERMAN: Last Chance For The Cards

Can the Cardinals find a way to do some damage at Wrigley? This would be a good time for it.

Tom Ackerman
September 27, 2018 - 10:29 am
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty

(Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - You can go ahead and pin the blame on a kid who was going all out, if you want to. Adolis Garcia barreled around third, trying to dash home with the tying run in the eighth inning Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.

And then he stumbled and fell. Garcia never scored and the Cardinals lost to the Brewers, 2-1.

We can replay that clip over and over, if you'd like.

Me? I'll point out that the slow dribbler that started that play, the soft grounder to third by Jose Martinez... was the Cardinals' SECOND HIT OF THE GAME.

Two hits. Not good. That's the reason the Cardinals blew their final chance to make the playoffs.

Or did they? 

"It's amazing how the standings have turned so quickly," former Cards pitcher Kyle McClellan told me this morning on KMOX.

Yes, there is still an opportunity heading into the weekend.

Since the Phillies rolled over for three consecutive games in Colorado, losing 14-0 yesterday, the Rockies have actually overtaken first place in the NL West. And that means the Cardinals' new competition in the NL Wild Card race is the Dodgers, just one game in front of them with three to go.

Three games starting Friday at Wrigley Field, home of the desperate Chicago Cubs, who are currently fighting the Brewers for the division crown.

"They still have a chance, but they're going to pretty much have to win all three of these," McClellan said.

Is it possible?

"There's two ways to go," Adam Wainwright, Friday's starter, told reporters in St. Louis. "You can quit, you can lay down and you can get ready for the offseason. Or you can show up with your hair on fire and get ready to play a baseball game."

Wainwright is 11-2 all-time at Wrigley, including a victory earlier this season on April 17 in which he allowed one unearned run in five innings. The Cardinals will be ready to back him up with their stable of young pitchers, although that group has had trouble throwing strikes in recent weeks. That could prove costly against the Cubs' lineup, still capable of scoring in a hurry.

"It just seems like the Cardinals are leaking right now," McClellan said.  "They don't have a strong lefthanded pitcher out of the bullpen to come in and get those big lefthanded outs. Starting pitching, you have a lot of young guys that just haven't been as sharp as they had been in August."

After Wainwright, the rotation turns to the Cards' two best starters for Saturday and Sunday, Miles Mikolas (17-4, 2.94 ERA) and Jack Flaherty (8-8, 3.16).

"We'll start with the first game, start with Friday," Wainwright said.  "We'll see what happens. But we're going to be ready to play. I can promise you I'll be ready to pitch."

As Wainwright spoke, you could hear the sound of bats knocking against each other as they were being packed. The Cardinals sure could use them. They scored just three runs per game in the Brewers' sweep, including leaving 12 runners on base in a 12-4 loss on Tuesday.

Can the Cardinals find a way to do some damage at Wrigley? This would be a good time for it.

One thing you can be sure of: San Francisco, hosting the Dodgers, will not wilt like the Phillies. The Giants, who have been out of the race for a while, would seemingly love to send their hated rivals to the offseason.

We'll see what the Cubs, who are already in, have in store for the Cardinals.

"This team knows what's going on," manager Mike Shildt said after the Cards' final regular season game at home. "This team is professional. This team is resilient. And this team will bounce back."