The Philadelphia Phillies were victimized pretty badly by the St. Louis Cardinals last October. This year, however, Phillies fans like myself know that Philadelphia victimized itself most of the season. Yet it still made sense that the Cardinals took the second wild card spot the Phils were fighting for this September - although St. Louis was less hot this time in doing so.
After going on a huge tear and taking advantage of an Atlanta Braves collapse to reach the 2011 postseason, the Cardinals backed into the 2012 postseason. Despite losing to the Cincinnati Reds on Oct. 2, the Cardinals clinched the second wild card when the Los Angeles Dodgers also lost to the San Francisco Giants.
Although the Giants are resting for the playoffs and the Dodgers had everything on the line, they still couldn't stay alive. But considering how things have gone in the second wild card race, there was no other way for it to end than for someone to clinch by default.
The Cardinals only have 87 wins, which wouldn't be good enough to catch the Braves if there was just one wild card. This time around, the Braves have clearly been the best second place team for the entire year - but they still have to play the wild card playoff game with the Cardinals that they couldn't reach in 2011.
If the Phillies had just held onto a few more leads and didn't wait until early September to heat up, they could have faced the Braves for the wild card instead - or at least stayed in contention going into their final game. Instead, Philadelphia is just trying to salvage a winning record, while St. Louis has once again taken something that the Phillies really wanted in October.
The Cardinals won the World Series last year by getting hot at the right time, although they don't appear to be as hot going into this October. But they won the 2006 World Series after they backed into the postseason with 83 wins and a division title. So maybe the pattern now has St. Louis backing in before it wins its next championship.
The Phillies had dreams of backing into a weak wild card race and getting hot at the right time, like last year's Cardinals did. Yet St. Louis's run last season was truly a one of a kind occurrence. Now the Cardinals have to find another way to win it all, which is more than what the Phillies can accomplish at the moment.
St. Louis reached the NLCS in Philadelphia's place last year and then won the World Series. Can the Cardinals do the same this year after winning the second wild card in the Phillies' place? They'll need to stun the Braves just to reach the NLDS - but it wouldn't be the first time that has happened.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Phillies since he was eight years old.
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