|The Cardinals seem happy ... for now. (US Presswire)|
In the two-team race for the second NL wild-card berth, the Cardinals lead the Dodgers by two games with just two to play. This makes them a heavy favorite to make the playoffs. However, if they manage to fritter away that lead over the final two tilts of the regular season, then a brutal travel schedule will be their punishment.
The Cardinals will finish the regular season at home against the Reds. If they lose out and the Dodgers win out, then, as already noted in this space, the Cardinals and Dodgers will play a one-game playoff on Thursday in Los Angeles to determine the second wild-card entrant.
Now consider that the Cardinals and Reds have Tuesday's latest start time (8:15 pm ET). So after a pair devastating losses to the loathed Reds, the Cardinals would board a late-night charter for the West Coast. It would not meet Rafael Furcal's definition of a "happy flight." ...
Total so far: 1,589 miles.
Should the Cardinals be fortunate enough to prevail against the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine, then they'd need to be in Atlanta for yet another "loser leave town match," this time against the Braves in the actual wild-card round. So that's LAX to Jackson-Hartsfield ...
Total so far: 3,789 miles.
If they sleepwalk to victory over Atlanta, then it's back to St. Louis for a Sunday match-up against either the Nationals or that same Reds team that abetted all of this by selfishly beating the Cardinals in the final two regular-season games. So ...
Final total: 4,344 miles.
Yes, there's that Saturday off day, which, if all of these events conspired against them, would do the beleaguered Cardinals oodles of good. Still, that Wednesday through Friday stretch would be a miserable one.
So if the reigning champs are in need of further incentive to polish off the Dodgers, here it is.