MLB Wild Card chase: St. Louis Cardinals face tough climb despite close standings

St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado makes a diving stop in the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Philip G. Pavely)

ST. LOUIS- The Cardinals return to play Friday night with a three-game series in Milwaukee against the Brewers, the start of a final 30-game sprint that will determine if St. Louis will play in the postseason or get a head start on the offseason.

Looking at the standings, the Cardinals, despite some incredibly hard to stomach losses within the last month alone, to say nothing of a June swoon that saw the team tumble out of first place in the National League Central, are still very much in it. St. Louis is just 2.5 games behind the Reds for the second Wild Card spot, and the Cardinals still get another three-game whack at Cincinnati next weekend at home.

The problem? San Diego, despite its own troubles over the last month, is only a half-game behind entering play Thursday, and there’s company at the 2.5 game mark with the Phillies, who only trail Atlanta for the division lead by 2 and a half as well. The Mets are 5.5 back in both the East and the Wild Card.

Of all the teams mentioned, Fangraphs gives St. Louis the longest odds of making the postseason at 5.6 percent. Using Fangraphs’ measurements for the strength of schedule based on what’s left of the 2021 regular season, MLB.com gives St. Louis the second-toughest road in all of baseball, behind only San Diego.

These last 30 games include matchups against neck and neck Wild Card foes like the Padres, Reds and Mets, a four-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Albert Pujols next week, and 10(!) games against Milwaukee, which at best could give St. Louis a miraculous shot at somehow stealing the NL Central or at worst, send the Redbirds off into the offseason sunset.

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