This one shouldn’t be too hard to understand. The St. Louis Cardinals’ magic number to clinch the National League wild-card berth is one.
Lose, and the Dodgers are eliminated from the playoffs.
If the Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds one of the next two days, the Dodgers are eliminated from the playoffs.
If somehow the Cardinals go 0-2, and the Dodgers 2-0, there will be a Game 163 at Dodger Stadium on Thursday for the right to visit Atlanta in the wild-card game.
Expect every player to be watching the scoreboard tomorrow. “We all know what the situation is,” Aaron Harang said Monday.
The pitching matchups in St. Louis could be of critical importance.
The Cardinals don’t have a cake walk to the playoffs. They’ll send Chris Carpenter to the mound against Mat Latos at Busch Stadium tomorrow.
Carpenter has dominated the Reds in his career, including 12-1 with a 2.28 ERA over his last 15 starts in the series. But the right-hander is winless in his only two starts this season (against the lowly Cubs and Astros) since returning from shoulder surgery.
Latos was rocked in his only start at Busch Stadium this season, when he allowed eight runs in 5 2/3 innings back on April 18. He pitched well in a no-decision against the Cardinals on July 13, and didn’t pitch well at home against the Cardinals on Aug. 24, allowing seven runs in five innings.
Thursday, the Reds will send Homer Bailey to the mound fresh off a no-hitter. (There’s no statistical consensus about how pitchers fare after a no-hitter.) The Cardinals will counter with Adam Wainwright, who’s been a much better pitcher at home than on the road this year.
If the Reds and Dodgers both win tomorrow, the Dodgers may have one useful advantage over the Cardinals on Wednesday. Their 162nd game begins an hour earlier than the Cardinals’, shifting the scoreboard-watching to St. Louis.
Of course, that’s a big “if.”