ST. LOUIS (BaseballStL) – At 12:40 a.m. Wednesday morning (St. Louis time), the Cardinals officially clinched the final NL wild-card spot. The good news came more than two hours after the Reds beat the Cardinals 3-1 Tuesday night.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, Barry Zito and the San Francisco Giants squeaked past the Los Angeles Dodgers en route to a 4-3 victory, and snapped a six-game win streak and a feverish run by the Dodgers for the final NL wild-card spot.
On the second consecutive night that the Cardinals needed a Dodgers loss, manager Mike Matheny told his team to go home and rest following Tuesday’s loss to the Reds, the team’s fourth loss in its last 15 games.
Meanwhile, the Giants were handling business against the rival Dodgers behind a strong start from Zito and home runs by Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias. Zito, who allowed two earned runs in six innings of work, pitched into the seventh inning before hitting the leadoff batter with a pitch.
The Dodgers began to chip away at a three-run deficit in the seventh inning with a two-run home run by A.J. Ellis to cut the Giants’ lead to one run. Later in the inning and with the tying run on third base with two outs, the Giants escaped after George Kontos relieved Guillermo Mota and got Matt Kemp to strike out swinging.
The Giants worked around a leadoff single representing the tying run for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth inning which solidified the Cardinals as the final wild-card team.
The Dodgers loss sets the stage for a one game, winner-moves-on duel between the Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves on Friday. The game will be played in Atlanta.
It is a definite blow to the Dodgers who struck a blockbuster deal with the Boston Red Sox to bring Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett along with Nick Punto and the injured Carl Crawford to Los Angeles. The team also traded for Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino. Not making the playoffs wasn't an option for the Dodgers but now it is a reality.
Now that the Cardinals have clinched the one of the two wildcard spots, the Braves will be looking for revenge. The Cards beat the Braves to clinch the wild card spot in 2011 after overcoming a 10 game deficit.
The new wild card format pits the two teams with the best record who did not win their division in a sudden death match-up. The winning team will, of course, advance to the division series.
If the Cardinals win on October 5th, they will host the first two National League Division Series games at Busch Stadium on Sunday, October 7th and Monday, October 8th.
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