Image courtesy of US PRESSWIRE
(The Cardinal Nation Show) -- The Cardinals managed to go through the back door into the playoffs early Wednesday morning as the Los Angeles Dodgers fell to the San Francisco Giants.
Earlier, the Cardinals, who became the second and final National League wild card, had lost to the Cincinnati Reds 3-1 as right-hander Chris Carpenter continued his unexpected comeback from July 19 surgery to relieve a nerve condition that affected his neck and right shoulder.
Carpenter is 0-2 and the Cardinals have lost all three of his starts, but he has given up a total of just six runs in 17 1/3 innings.
On Tuesday, he appeared to have his best stuff, fanning seven, but he allowed a home run to Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, a former Cardinals teammate, in the fourth inning and two runs in the sixth, keyed by a double by left fielder Ryan Ludwick, another former teammate.
"I thought I was better again," said Carpenter. "Especially early on, I thought my command, my sharpness and my stuff were better than it was my first two times out, which was good.
"Unfortunately, that inning got away from me a little bit. Some of the pitches got out over the plate and they hit them. That's what's going to happen. I've got to do a better job.
"Hopefully I'll get another shot."
Carpenter would be a candidate to pitch Game 3 or Game 4 in the Division Series, if the Cardinals get that far.
The Cardinals managed only one run off Reds right-hander Mat Latos, who had a previous ERA of 18.82 against them at Busch Stadium. Then the Reds' bullpen shut down the Cardinals for the last four innings. Over the last six innings, the Cardinals had just two singles and a walk.
Unlike the previous night when the Cardinals players stayed into the wee hours to see if the Dodgers would lose (they didn't), manager Mike Matheny sent them home after this game to prepare for the regular-season finale on Wednesday.
"They need to get some rest," said Matheny. "We've got a game tomorrow and then we've got to make a trip some way or the other (it will be Atlanta), so we need to get them out (of the clubhouse)."
The Cardinals likely will bypass their scheduled starter, right-hander Adam Wainwright, and go to right-handed rookie Shelby Miller for the series finale. If Wainwright is scratched, he well could pitch the wild-card playoff game Friday at Atlanta, with right-hander Kyle Lohse, 16-3 for the season, on tap to start Sunday against either Washington or Cincinnati, depending on which team the Cardinals would play if they win the wild-card game.