The Cardinals know they can earn a trip to the postseason with a win Sunday against the Brewers. If they lose, they can still get there but it might involve a detour through Detroit.
Beating the Brewers on the scheduled final day of the season would lock in the Cardinals as the fifth seed, meaning they would play the Padres in the wild card round starting on Wednesday.
But if they lose again to the Brewers, the path could get more interesting. It all depends on whether the Giants or Phillies win or lose on Sunday.
If the Cardinals lose, they need the Giants to lose and the Phillies to win to avoid going to Detroit. All three teams would have 29 wins, but the Cardinals would be 29-29 while the Giants and Phillies would be at 29-31. Even if the Cardinals played and lost both games on Monday they would be tied, and the Cardinals would own the tiebreakers over both teams based on their overall record within the division and their division record over the last 20 games.
The combination of results that would send the Cardinals to Detroit is a loss to the Brewers and a win by the Giants. The Cardinals would have 29 wins and the Giants 30, so if the Cardinals win one of the potential two games against the Tigers they would earn the postseason trip through the tiebreaker scenarios of having a better division record.
The only way the Cardinasl could fall short of making the playoffs would be if they lose Sunday, the Giants win and then the Cardinals lose both games on Monday in Detroit. That would give the Giants the final playoff spot.
By Rob Rains
Going into the games on Saturday, here are the various playoff scenarios still in play for the Cardinals with two days, or maybe three, left in the regular season:
NL Central race: The Cardinals, with a 29-27 record, trail the Cubs by three games for the division championship, meaning one loss by the Cardinals or one win by the Cubs would give Chicago the title and home-field advantage for the wild card, best-of-three round.
For the Cardinals to win the division, they would have to beat the Brewers on Saturday and Sunday, then win both games of the makeup doubleheader on Monday in Detroit, and have the Cubs lose to the White Sox on both Saturday and Sunday.
If all of that happens, the two teams would be tied with 33-27 records. They also tied their season series, five games to five, but the Cardinals would win the division on the second tiebreaker, their record within the division, which would be one game better than the Cubs.
Second place: Finishing second in the division would secure an automatic playoff spot for the Cardinals in this year’s expanded playoffs as either the fifth or sixth seed, meaning they would be the road team for the best-of-three wild card round.
The Cardinals and Reds are in a virtual tie for second going into the games on Saturday night. The Reds will play the Twins in Minnesota on Saturday and Sunday. The Cardinals could clinch second with wins over the Brewers on both Saturday and Sunday and one loss by the Reds. If the two teams tie, the Cardinals would win the tiebreaker because of a 6-4 edge in the season series between the two teams.
If the Cardinals clinch second place on Sunday, they would not need to make up the games on Monday in Detroit but if they are behind the Reds, but still have a chance to match their record with one or two wins on Monday, those games would be played since they would determine home-field advantage for the first round.
Wild card: The Cardinals could clinch no worse than a wild card spot with a win on Saturday or Sunday and a loss by Philadelphia to Tampa Bay on either day, or by winning both of their games against the Brewers.
Seedings: Going into Saturday’s games the Cardinals hold the fifth seed, meaning their wild-card matchup would be in San Diego against the Padres, who have clinched the fourth seed.
They are competing against the Marlins and Reds to see who will be the fifth and sixth seeds, with the Marlins having a 30-28 record going into Saturday’s game against the Yankees. If St. Louis and Miami finish with the same record, the Cardinals would win the tiebreaker because of a better record within the division.
Should they drop to the sixth or even the seventh spot, they would meet either the Braves or Cubs in the first round. The wild card round will begin on Wednesday.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains