The St. Louis Cardinals enter the weekend needing only one victory over the rival Chicago Cubs or one Pittsburgh Pirates loss to the Cincinnati Reds to wrap up the NL Central title and avoid the wild card play-in game. That's the good news. The bad news is that regardless of which scenario plays out, St. Louis will enter the postseason without the services of All-Star Allen Craig, who according to general manager John Mozeliak will miss at least the NLDS with a Lisfranc sprain in his foot.
Craig suffered the unlucky injury on Sept. 4 in Cincinnati. While attempting to advance to second base on an error, Craig took a sharp turn at first and then an awkward step to avoid crashing into umpire Laz Diaz. It was one of those injuries where you watch an athlete plant their foot and know they're facing an extended absence almost immediately. But the Cardinals were still holding out hope for Craig to return early in the postseason.
Unfortunately, that won't be the case, and it would appear there's a real possibility that Craig won't return at all during the postseason. Nothing is etched in stone, but the news doesn't sound encouraging.
#STLCards conservative approach with Craig is to prevent this from becoming a career-threatening injury or one that costs him much of 2014.
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) September 27, 2013
Where there's a dark cloud sometimes there's also a silver lining. In this case, the silver lining is Matt Adams.
On the night Craig originally suffered the injury, Adams stepped right into the lineup and became the first Cardinals player ever to hit two extra inning home runs in the same game. A historic start to his run covering for Craig, and he hasn't stopped hitting since, posting a .333 average with six home runs and 13 RBIs over the last 20 games. His OPS over that time is .971 compared to Craig's .830 for the season.
The postseason is a different animal, though. Allen Craig has logged 101 plates appearances over the last two Octobers and made a strong push for World Series MVP in 2011. That is valuable experience and production that will be missing from the middle of the order, but now is the time for Matt Adams to pick up his experience while veterans like Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran take on some extra pressure to produce.
If there's one NL team equipped to handle such a loss both physically, in terms of a replacement on the field, and mentally, it's the St. Louis Cardinals. Their road to and through the postseason is never easy. Whether they're missing an ace like Adam Wainwright in 2011, or wondering how they can survive without Albert Pujols in 2012, they always find a way to survive and advance. It's just another challenge for them. One that they will accept and give their best shot to conquer.