ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rather than spraying champagne in every direction, the defending World Series champions talked about holding a subdued party if they squeezed into the postseason.
When it finally happened, the St. Louis Cardinals just couldn’t help themselves.
First-year manager Mike Matheny, wearing a uniform top over an undershirt that was soaked and aromatic from the bubbly that flowed, addressed the media outside the clubhouse around 1 a.m. local time after the Cardinals clinched the second NL wild card when Los Angeles lost to San Francisco.
The Dodgers’ elimination set up a final hectic day to the regular season in which the AL West and AL East crowns are up for grabs, and Miguel Cabrera can become baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Just before Matheny emerged, raucous cheering could be heard.
“I think they realized how special this is,” Matheny said. “You can’t take these for granted. We were talking about it being kind of subdued and it was, but they’re still proud. And had every right to be.”
Nobody seemed to mind too much that they backed in, earning a one-game playoff Friday against the Braves in Atlanta.
“We were the last one in, but we have an opportunity to do something special,” said pitcher Chris Carpenter, the loser in a 3-1 setback to the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night. “I think the way the ballclub’s playing right now we have a chance to move on.
“Hopefully, we can come out and do the things we’ve been doing for the last two or three weeks.”
While all 10 playoff spots in the majors are taken, the Cardinals-Braves game is the only pairing that’s set.
For the second season in a row, a hectic scramble is shaping up with first place and home-field advantage at stake.
Oakland, Texas, Baltimore and the New York Yankees can all take division titles. Each club is already assured a postseason slot.
Texas plays at Oakland in the afternoon — they’re tied and the winner earns the West title, the loser gets a wild card.
“No one said it was going to be easy,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We started out to play 162 games and now — tomorrow — it’s 162. And we’ll see what happens.”
In the East, the Yankees can win it at home if they beat Boston or if second-place Baltimore loses at Tampa Bay. If the Orioles overcome their one-game deficit Wednesday night, they’ll host the Yankees in a tiebreaker Thursday.
“We have the chance to have the best record, and that’s the bottom line and that’s a good feeling that you can control that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco won their NL divisions. Detroit has wrapped up the AL Central, and Cabrera is in position to win the Triple Crown.
Cabrera has 44 home runs, one more than Texas’ Josh Hamilton. The Tigers star is hitting .331, seven points ahead of Angels rookie Mike Trout, and his 139 RBIs are 11 more than Hamilton’s total.
Cabrera has deflected attention of his achievement to his team’s success. There will be time to celebrate — in the meantime, there are still two divisions to be decided.
Shades of last year, sort of, when the Cardinals and Tampa Bay claimed wild-card spots on a thrilling final day, chasing the Braves and Boston from the postseason picture.
This time, the races are all about seeding. Division winners can avoid a dangerous all-or-nothing game for the wild card, something baseball added this year.
The Cardinals are aiming to duplicate their success last fall, when they parlayed a wild-card berth into the franchise’s 11th title, beating the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers to give manager Tony La Russa a fitting send-off.
No one seemed to mind that this year they’ll have to be clicking from Day 1 — or it’ll be over.
“A lot of clubs were in it at the end and it worked out for us,” team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. “We need to go down there and win. We have the talent to go as far as our fortunes take us.”
Matheny named 16-game winner Kyle Lohse as the starter Friday against the Braves. He also could have gone with Adam Wainwright, bumped from the start in the regular-season finale Wednesday to save his arm for the postseason.
“What is there not to like about him? I mean, what more can he do?” Matheny said of Lohse. “It’s kind of lined up that way and we’ve had that in line for a while.”
Lohse got a strong endorsement from Carpenter, who was 4-0 in the postseason last fall including must-have wins over Phillies ace Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the NL Division Series and Game 7 over the Rangers.
“There’s no doubt about it, he’s been our most consistent guy all year,” Carpenter said. “I don’t think it’s been said enough because they might not think he’s an exciting guy — he doesn’t throw 95 miles an hour, doesn’t strike out 250 guys a year — but when he’s been healthy he’s been one of our best pitchers.
“He deserves this game, he deserves to go out there and take it on.”
More Related Stories
- What's 2013's "Gone Girl"? Here are this summer's best reads
- Fox executive behind "Does Someone Have to Go?" leaving the network
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11