MLB postseason picture: Cardinals win again to improve NL Wild Card position

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September is upon us, which means every race in Major League Baseball is headed for the home stretch. Every game matters more than ever to the teams competing for a postseason spot. That’s why every night between now and the end of the regular season we’ll bring you an updated look at the MLB postseason picture.

The St. Louis Cardinals have looked like an entirely different team since firing manager Mike Matheny on July 14. Since that point, they’ve posted an NL-best 31-16 record. Their success under Mike Shildt has changed his status from interim to full-time manager, and it’s put them in the great position for the second NL Wild Card spot.

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The Cardinals continued their winning ways Wednesday, topping the Nationals 7-6 to win the rubber match in Washington. St. Louis jumped out to a big early lead thanks to Matt Adams first-inning three-run homer, the first of two for him in the game. St. Louis survived a Washington four-run rally in the seventh, with former ace Carlos Martinez earning his first save of the season in the ninth.

The Cardinals are now one-half game behind Milwaukee for the second wild card. Their lead for the second wild card grew to two games over the Dodgers and 2.5 over the idle Diamondbacks.

St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Matt Adams (15) celebrates his three-run home run against his former team, the Nationals. (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Matt Adams (15) celebrates his three-run home run against his former team, the Nationals. (AP)

KEY RACES

• NL West: Trevor Story hit 1,380 feet worth of home runs Wednesday night. More important to the Rockies, they extended their division lead after beating the Giants 5-3. Colorado’s edge over the Dodgers is 1.5 after L.A. fell to the Mets. Arizona is two games back.

• NL Central: Paced by Daniel Murphy’s three-hit game, the Cubs rebounded from two straight losses in Milwaukee to salvage the series finale. The Cubs lead over Milwaukee grows to four games.  The Cardinals remain 4.5 back.

• NL East: The Phillies missed a golden opportunity to gain another game on the Braves, losing 2-1 to the Marlins in Miami. Philadelphia remains three games back following the Braves loss to Boston.

• AL Wild Card: The A’s may be dealing with drama in the clubhouse, but they looked focused in beating the Yankees 8-2. The win pulls them to 3.5 behind New York for the AL’s first wild-card spot, and keeps them 5.5 games ahead of the victorious Mariners for the second.

• AL West: The Astros maintained their 3.5 game lead over Oakland with an easy 9-1 win against the Twins.

• AL East: The Red Sox got an improbable go-ahead home run from new addition Brandon Phillips to beat the Braves 9-8. With the Yankees loss, Boston’s lead grows to 9.5 games.

Brandon Phillips was the surprising Red Sox hero on Wednesday. (AP)
Brandon Phillips was the surprising Red Sox hero on Wednesday. (AP)

MAGIC NUMBER WATCH

• Cleveland Indians — 8: The Indians are the team closest to clinching a division championship. They lowered their Magic Number again on Wednesday thanks in part to Corey Kluber’s 18th victory. The Indians ace led them to a 3-1 win against the Royals. Coupled with the Twins 9-1 loss in Houston, Cleveland’s Magic Number is down to eight.

ELIMINATION WATCH

So long, White Sox, Rangers and Padres. All three were officially completely eliminated from postseason contention Wednesday. The White Sox bowed out following Wednesday’s 10-2 loss to the Tigers. The Rangers and Padres were knocked out by the A’s and Rockies win respectively. They’ll join the previously eliminated Orioles and Royals on the outside looking in.

THURSDAY’S MUST-SEE GAME

It’s a light Thursday schedule, but one game offers immense postseason implications. The Braves and Diamondbacks begin a four-game weekend series in Arizona that will impact the NL East, West and Wild Card standings.

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