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'Not a good feeling' as Cards miss out on WC

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- For their last 1,131 regular-season games, the Cardinals have taken the field with postseason aspirations still alive. That steak will end on Friday.

After a succession of five years in the playoffs and one in which they weren't eliminated from the hunt until the season's final game, the Cardinals are now facing the disappointment of a final weekend with nothing more up for grabs. A 2-1 loss to the Cubs that ended with a home run-robbing catch by Leonys Martin in the 11th inning on Thursday dropped the Cardinals four games back of the Rockies for the second National League Wild Card spot.

Full Game Coverage

ST. LOUIS -- For their last 1,131 regular-season games, the Cardinals have taken the field with postseason aspirations still alive. That steak will end on Friday.

After a succession of five years in the playoffs and one in which they weren't eliminated from the hunt until the season's final game, the Cardinals are now facing the disappointment of a final weekend with nothing more up for grabs. A 2-1 loss to the Cubs that ended with a home run-robbing catch by Leonys Martin in the 11th inning on Thursday dropped the Cardinals four games back of the Rockies for the second National League Wild Card spot.

Full Game Coverage

That deficit exceeds the number of games left on the Cardinals' schedule, meaning that for just the second time this century, the Cardinals will be missing from the postseason in consecutive years.

"Any time you don't achieve what you set out for, it's hard," Matt Carpenter said. "You look at what goes into a season -- how long it is, the preparation it takes to get ready for it, it doesn't just start in Spring Training. It starts in the offseason. Really, any time you put on this uniform you have an opportunity to get into October, and to fall short of that is just not a good feeling. That's what we're experiencing today."

A drive to dethrone the defending World Series champs from atop the NL Central hit a speed bump from the start. The club stumbled out of Spring Training with a 3-9 record and proceeded to spend most of the next six months having to chase.

Even in going 49-37 after June 24, they couldn't gain enough ground. Over the last month, the Cardinals have posted a 17-12 record.

"This month has been very exciting at times and very frustrating at times," general manager Michael Girsch said. "In some ways, a synopsis of our season has been similar."

The Cardinals spent 14 days in first place but never led the division by more than one game. Now, they trail by eight, a season high. At its best, the team sat nine games above .500 (Sept. 22), while the nadir came in late June, when the Cards were seven games below that .500 mark.

"It's just a frustrating, disappointing season as a team," said Tommy Pham, a standout contributor all year. "When it's all said and done, everyone has to really self-evaluate and find ways to get better for next season. We have to find ways individually and as a team to get better and be more well-rounded."

There is anticipation of a busy offseason ahead. The Cardinals will lose key players, including Lance Lynn, to free agency, and they have decisions to make about a crowded outfield, the rise of young starting pitchers and too much roster repetition.

The need to add at least one impact hitter seems obvious, and filling holes in the back end of the bullpen will be critical in order to construct a team that can contend in the division again. Anything less than that is unsatisfactory for an organization conditioned to sustained success.

"I think it's obvious that this division is getting better," Carpenter said. "The Cubs are a really good team. The Brewers are a really good team. Pittsburgh is not far away. And Cincinnati. To compete in this division, you have to be ready to play. We all have to do a better job."

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

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

St. Louis Cardinals