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Inbox: Who would start in Wild Card Game?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answers questions from St. Louis fans
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Ten games. Three teams. Two spots. All even. That's the National League Wild Card race in a nutshell, a race that the Cardinals climbed back into with a pair of crucial victories in San Francisco and a series win in Colorado. Thursday is the club's last off-day of the regular season before beginning its final push toward what the organization hope ends with a sixth straight postseason berth.

Let's dig into another set of mailbag questions to pass the time.

ST. LOUIS -- Ten games. Three teams. Two spots. All even. That's the National League Wild Card race in a nutshell, a race that the Cardinals climbed back into with a pair of crucial victories in San Francisco and a series win in Colorado. Thursday is the club's last off-day of the regular season before beginning its final push toward what the organization hope ends with a sixth straight postseason berth.

Let's dig into another set of mailbag questions to pass the time.

Tweet from @BigBird_06: @LangoschMLB In a playoff game, who is the ace of the franchise right now for starting pitching? Vandalia, IL

The Cardinals -- who insist that the "ace" designation has as much to do with off-field influence as on-field performance -- will still assign that label to Adam Wainwright. But that doesn't mean they'll pitch him in the NL Wild Card Game. Carlos Martinez has been this team's best starter and would almost certainly draw the assignment. The Cards have their rotation lined up for this, too. Martinez is on turn to make his final regular-season start on Sept. 30, which would give him the usual four days of rest before the Oct. 5 win-or-go-home tilt.

:: Submit a question to the Cardinals Inbox ::

In case there is a three-way tie for the Wild Card, what would your preferred rotation be?
-- Sam L., Champaign, Ill.

This is where things get tricky, though we can do some decoding to simplify the options. Assuming that the Cardinals roll their rotation order over following the off-day, the final five starts of the regular season will be assigned as such: Mike Leake (Sept. 28), Alex Reyes (Sept. 29), Martinez (Sept. 30), Wainwright (Oct. 1) and Luke Weaver or Jaime Garcia (Oct. 2).

Video: STL@PIT: Leake starts an inning-ending double play

If there is a three-way tie, the Cardinals (based on where the teams currently stand with regards to the tiebreaker rules) would most likely choose to play a home game against the Mets on Oct. 3. That start would go to Leake, as he'd be the only pitcher available on normal rest. If the Cards lose that game, they'd then travel to San Francisco for one more shot at securing a Wild Card berth. That start would line up for Reyes. And of course, if St. Louis were to win either of those two games, it would advance to the NL Wild Card Game with Martinez ready to pitch.

2016 tiebreaker scenarios

It's worth noting that the Mets and Cardinals won their season series against the Giants, but split their season series against one another. The Cards currently have a better intradivision record (36-30) than the Mets (33-33), and if that holds, they'd get first choice in how they slot into these tiebreaker games.

Tweet from @leafirestone: @LangoschMLB does Garcia go back in rotation in place of Weaver?

I think there is a strong chance that Garcia will replace Weaver during this next turn through the rotation. Not only has Weaver been unable to finish three innings in either of his last two starts, but Garcia entered behind him in both and pitched quite well. Garcia's ability to silence a Rockies offense over four innings of one-hit relief on Wednesday was especially impressive. Garcia can offer the experience that Weaver lacks, and perhaps this short stint in the bullpen refreshed his fatiguing arm.

Video: STL@COL: Garcia picks up his 5th K of the game

What's the latest on Lance Lynn? Last I heard, he made a couple starts in the Minors. Is he still throwing? Or have they shut him down so he can be ready to go next Spring?
-- Tom C.

Lynn accomplished what he wanted to during his rehab assignment starts, and he has wrapped up that throwing program so he can get ready for a "normal" offseason. Lynn expects to resume throwing in December so that he ready for a full workload in Spring Training.

Do you think the Cardinals pick up Garcia's option this offseason? If so, what do they do with him? I can't envision a starting rotation without Reyes involved.
-- Andrew F., Naperville, Ill.

The Cardinals hold a $12 million club option on Garcia as part of the extension he signed in 2011. And though Garcia's performance has been inconsistent and disappointing this season, there is still value to be found. Within the current state of baseball economics, a $12 million salary for a lefty starter with Garcia's numbers is fairly reasonable. In fact, over on Fangraphs.com, there is a tool that converts a player's Wins Above Replacement value into a dollar scale to project what he would be worth on the open market. Garcia's value this year? $11.5 million.

Now, of course, exercising Garcia's option does not mean the Cards will necessarily retain him. The club could take advantage of a weak free-agent class by shopping Garcia to other clubs. At least then, if St. Louis lets him go, it will net something in return. That will not be the case if the Cardinals decline the option outright.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

St. Louis Cardinals