Cardinals fall, but still control their destiny

September 27th, 2020

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals’ postseason hopes will have to wait another day. They entered Saturday night in “win and you’re in” mode -- but a 3-0 loss to the Brewers at Busch Stadium puts the Cardinals in that same mode on Sunday.

One more win clinches a postseason spot and avoids a trip to Detroit on Monday, and the Cardinals (29-28) are eager to do both.

“It’s been our whole mindset the whole year,” second baseman Kolten Wong said. “We haven’t had anything come easy to us. Tough games and tough schedules, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. It couldn’t be more fitting for us to take it tomorrow. Confidence is still high, we still know we’re a good team and we’re ready to go.”

A loss Sunday and a Giants win means Detroit looms on Monday to make up the one or two games the Cardinals have remaining with the Tigers. With the Cubs clinching the National League Central title Saturday -- and home-field advantage in the Wild Card Series -- the Cardinals would only go to Detroit to determine a postseason berth. If the playoff field is set and playing the games would only impact seeding, then the makeup games would not be played. In that scenario, the Cardinals’ seeding would be based on winning percentage over their 58-game schedule.

There are six National League teams who have clinched a spot in the postseason: the Dodgers, Braves, Padres, Cubs, Marlins and Reds. The final two spots will come down to the final day of the season, and there are four teams still fighting for it: the Cardinals, Giants, Brewers (29-30) and Phillies. St. Louis owns the tiebreaker over the Phillies (28-31).

The Giants (29-30) lost Saturday to the Padres, so if the Cardinals lose Sunday and the Giants also lose, the Cardinals will clinch a postseason spot because they would hold the tiebreaker over the Giants by division record. If the Cardinals lose Sunday and the Giants win, the Cardinals will have two chances to win one game to clinch a spot in Detroit on Monday.

The Cardinals would have liked to avoid all of this by winning Saturday. (5-3) matched zeros with Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff (3-5) for three innings, but Ryan Braun and Daniel Vogelbach knocked back-to-back home runs off Wainwright in the fourth in what could have been his final start at Busch Stadium. The Brewers added one more on Omar Narváez’s RBI single in the seventh. Wainwright allowed eight hits total and struck out three over 6 2/3 innings.

“[Woodruff] did a great job,” Wainwright said. “He was filthy. ... I needed to put zeros up there to match him, and they got a couple of runs across on me.”

Woodruff wasn’t just filthy -- he overpowered the St. Louis hitters. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out 10 in eight innings and retired 19 in a row at one point. Eight of those strikeouts came on fastballs 96 mph or faster.

“He comes at you,” manager Mike Shildt said. “He’s got a big arm. Sitting on 96, 97, good secondary pitches. Everything was on the plate, both sides. ... [He] threw his ‘A’ game at us tonight. He’s got good stuff. You don’t like to, but you tip your hat. He did a heck of a job.”

Matt Carpenter’s walk in the bottom of the eighth inning was the only one Woodruff issued. The Cardinals managed two hits off of the right-hander -- Wong’s leadoff single in the first and Yadier Molina’s infield single in the second. The Cardinals had just five balls go out of the infield, and Dylan Carlson’s lineout in the bottom of the eighth was the hardest-hit ball (105 mph exit velocity) with the highest expected batting average all night: .570.

So an inconsistent Cardinals offense will try to right the ship once more against the Brewers on Sunday. Shildt said the Cardinals will go “full bore,” and his sole focus will be to clinch Sunday to avoid Detroit on Monday.

“Let’s go. Let’s do it,” Shildt said. “We’ve been playing all year for it. We’d rather have done it tonight. But heck, we’ve got a great opportunity to show up tomorrow. We’ll show up, get ready to get after it and feel really good about tomorrow. I’m excited.”