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National League Wild Card Tracker: Cards make it 10, Phillies win a thriller, Reds and Padres continue to sink

National League Wild Card Tracker: Cards make it 10, Phillies win a thriller, Reds and Padres continue to sink

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Realmuto's 2-run triple in 10th leads Phillies past O's 3-2

Philadelphia Phillies' Bryce Harper (3) and Andrew Knapp (5) celebrate after Harper scored the game-winning run on a two-run triple by J.T. Realmuto during the 10th inning of an interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman harkens back to 2001 as he compares the 2021 Cardinals to that St. Louis team with Jim Edmonds and rookie Albert Pujols. And, as always, Hochman chooses a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat!

Welcome to the National League Wild Card Tracker 2021, your one-stop spot for everything you need to know about the Cardinals' postseason picture as of right now. We'll run this daily through the end of the regular season. Reminder: Enjoy the ride.

NL Wild Card No. 1: The Dodgers. By 15.5 games. They won their third game in a row and their ninth in their last 10 thanks to a 5-4 10th-inning road win against the Rockies on Tuesday. You want to know who hit the game-winning single? Some guy named Albert Pujols. The Dodgers were a Giants loss away from moving into a tie with San Francisco for first in the NL West, but the Giants beat the Padres late Tuesday night. This NL West race is crazy.

A reminder: If the Dodgers and Giants wind up tied for first place in the NL West at the end of the regular season, a tiebreaker to determine the division winner will be played on Monday, Oct. 4. Home-field advantage would belong to San Francisco because the Giants won the regular-season series against the Dodgers. The winner would advance to the division series round. The loser would host the NL wild-card game. The opponent that game, if things ended today, would be the . . . 

NL Wild Card No. 2: The Cardinals. By a lead of 4 games now, thanks to a remarkable winning streak that has now reached 10 games after Tuesday's 2-1 road win against the Brewers. If this keeps up we won't be doing these daily wild-card trackers very long. The magic number is nine. Games left: 12.

Griping about manager Mike Shildt sure got quiet fast. He made a bold decision to intentionally walk Christian Yelich to load the bases in the ninth inning, and closer Giovanny Gallegos made him look brilliant. With two outs and the last player on the Brewers bench, Pablo Reyes, sent to the plate, Gallegos struck him out on a pitch out of the zone.

"It's been a quiet week," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said about his lineup after the NL Central leaders  lost for the fifth time in their last seven games. Milwaukee has averaged just 3.14 runs during that stretch. 

The Cardinals' FanGraphs projection to win a wild-card spot, once nearly as low as the temperature of the ice water in Adam Wainwright's veins, checks in 90.3 percent.

The Hopefuls . . . 

The Reds (4 games back) lost to the Pirates. Again. At home. The 6-2 loss to the NL Central's bottom dwellers included some mind-melting missed opportunities. The Reds totaled 10 hits. They left 11 men on base. They went one-for-12 with runners in scoring position. The Reds have lost 17 of their last 26 games. Now let's hand things over to Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer to paint the gloomy picture of the flex-less Reds . . . 

Season on the line and the Cincinnati Reds couldn't have drawn up a better situation to take the lead against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh inning Tuesday:

Bases loaded. No outs. Nick Castellanos, Joey Votto and Kyle Farmer were due at the plate against a rookie reliever with a 5.95 ERA in a one-run game.

Castellanos hit a pop-up to first base in foul territory. Votto hit a fly ball to center field too shallow to score Delino DeShields from third base. Farmer was called out on strikes, frozen by a curveball.

Pirates right-hander Nick Mears pumped his fist twice and yelled to himself as he walked off the mound. Maybe that’s where the story ends on the Reds’ season, losing 6-2 to the Pirates at Great American Ball Park in front of 9,475 fans.

"It's like you get punched in the stomach and the air gets knocked out of you," Farmer said. "Really, no words to describe it, honestly."

The Reds' FanGraphs projection to win a wild-card spot is at 5.8 percent.

The Phillies (4.5 games back) were trending toward three consecutive losses — including two in a row to the miserable Orioles — when Baltimore took a lead in the top half of the 10th inning Tuesday night. But J.T. Realmuto's two-out, two-run triple in the bottom half of that inning sent a helmet-less (of course) Bryce Harper sliding hair first across home plate for a big win.

"I didn't want Harper to beat us there. Realmuto's an All-Star superstar, superstar player. We didn't want him to beat us there, as well." - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde to ESPN after Harper scored the game-winning run after Hyde intentionally walked him in the 10th.

The Phillies' FanGraphs projection to make the postseason either by catching the Braves for the division lead or grabbing a wild-card spot is 17.3 percent, with a much better chance of catching the Braves (15.5 percent) than the Cardinals (1.8 percent). The Cardinals have done a good job of keeping the Phillies out of the heart of the wild-card mix thanks to their winning streak. They're scarier than the Reds or anyone else at this point.

The Padres (5 games back) are going to have a hard time rebounding from Tuesday's brutal 6-5 home loss to the Giants. The late game was a good one, but ultimately it became the third one-run loss in a row for the Padres, and their ninth loss in the last 11 games. The Padres blew a lead and let a tie game in the ninth get away as the Giants knocked three singles off closer Mark Melancon. Ouch.

“We need to win 13 if we want to get where we want to be. - Manny Machado to the San Diego Union-Tribune before the loss in a pregame interview that included Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., attempting to smooth over the dugout squabble in St. Louis that went viral as a sign of the Padres distress.

The Padres' FanGraphs projection to win a wild-card spot is down to just 1.4 percent.

The Castoffs . . . 

The Mets have now lost six of their last seven games. Thumbs down.

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