ST. LOUIS -- What was once a two-game lead in the National League Wild Card race for St. Louis was erased, and as of Saturday's 17-4 loss to the Dodgers at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals are now the ones on the outside looking in.
The Cardinals sit a half-game behind the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card, after Colorado's loss to San Francisco at night pushed Los Angeles into the NL West lead.
This four-game Dodgers series could've cushioned a hard-earned playoff spot for the Cardinals after a remarkable August, but instead they have dropped three in a row heading into Sunday night's series finale. The Cardinals were competitive the two games prior with a high-scoring Thursday and a mound duel on Friday. Saturday, they just got leveled.
"You're not out of it until the final out is made, but unfortunately the game kind of got out of hand," Kolten Wong said. "There's games where you've got to understand these guys are just going, and games where you can take it. They just kept putting on the pressure until we didn't have enough time to get back."
The Cardinals were sans Matt Carpenter, who manager Mike Shildt gave the day off so he'd be fresh the remainder of the season. In his absence, Patrick Wisdom got the start at first and delivered a grand slam in the fourth that appeared to breathe life into the Cardinals.
"I think that's big for me and the team. When you've got a guy like Carp that has a day off, you need someone to step up," Wisdom said. "When your name is called you've got to go out there and perform."
• NL Wild Card standings
In the fifth when Yasiel Puig crushed one of his three home runs of the day (fifth of the series) to bury the Cardinals' chances of exiting the series with a Wild Card lead. Now, a win on Sunday would only tie the Dodgers, who are anything but cold.
Fourteen hours after the Cardinals fizzled under Jack Flaherty's quality start Friday, John Gant walked to the dugout following 4 1/3 innings where the righty surrendered six runs. Relievers Tyler Webb and Mike Mayers were tasked with handling the rest of the fifth, but couldn't escape the jam.
"I just have to come out and bear down harder than that," Gant said. I can't be walking those guys in that situation. I've got to be better for the team right there."
The Dodgers' offense looked like the juggernaut it was constructed to be, tallying 16 hits and a combined 29 runs so far this series. St. Louis mustered five hits.
"We ran into some really good pitching, and that seems to be part of it," Shildt said. "Last night was good, not to make excuses for our guys because they won't make it for themselves, but the reality is we've given tough at-bats, balls are not falling in between."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Dodgers reclaimed a one-run lead in the fifth on a two-run single by center fielder Cody Bellinger, but it was Puig's three-run smash to left that proved to be the Cardinals' undoing. A stagnant offense was no help following Puig's electric performance.
"The guy gets five home runs in two games, you've got to give him some credit," Shildt said. "We said that last night, and clearly the pitches didn't make a different result. The guy is locked in right now and taking good swings."
HE SAID IT
"I feel like we've been counted out numerous times this year by everybody. The one thing we do is always come back. We're never out no matter how things are going. We know that we can come back any single day and turn this around. I think people counting us out is fueling our fire to come back and play even better." -- Wong
The four-game series at Busch Stadium concludes with right-hander Adam Wainwright (1-3, 4.70 ERA) facing Dodgers righty Thomas Stripling (8-3, 2.61) at 7:05 p.m. CT Sunday. This will be Wainwright's second start since returning from the disabled list, and Shildt said his spot in the rotation is based on his merit and hard work to return healthy.