By virtue of the Los Angeles Dodgers losing Tuesday night to San Francisco, the St. Louis Cardinals officially became the second wild card team in the National League in 2012.
As expected, manager Mike Matheny is not going to start Adam Wainwright on his normal turn in game 162 on Wednesday night. Instead, that assignment against the NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds is going to rookie Shelby Miller.
The Cards can kick back and relax for one game, focusing all their efforts on Atlanta on Friday, right?
The Reds come into the final regular-season game tied with Washington for the best record in the league. That best-record club earns the right to face the wild card game winner rather than the NL West-winning Giants in the NLDS.
In addition, the team with the best regular-season record secures home field advantage in the NLCS.
The Nationals hold the tie-breaker, so they can secure the edge if they win Wednesday afternoon against Philadelphia. If they lose against Cliff Lee and the Phillies, however, the night game at Busch Stadium will take on much greater importance.
In that scenario, St. Louis would have a direct impact on which team the wild card winner plays in the NLDS.
Beat the Reds (and no hit-hurler Homer Bailey) Wednesday (and beat the Braves Friday) and the Cardinals would face the Nationals.
Lose to the Reds Wednesday (and beat the Braves Friday) and they would face the Reds again in the best-of-five NLDS.
We don’t know the Cardinals’ preference, but they are sure to have one.