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The 2018 Cardinals: Six Games to Go. Hold On Tight.

The Cardinals begin their final rush on Monday night at Busch Stadium. The Brewers are in town for three games, and the Cards’ schedule closes with a weekend series at Wrigley Field.

Six regular-season games are left in a sick season …

Sick as in dizzying.

There’s been plenty of controversy and injuries, and the first firing of a Cardinals’ manager since 1995. There’s a new manager, Mike Shildt, who’s led the Cardinals to the NL’s best record (40-23) since taking over for the discharged Mike Matheny. There’s been an influx of rookies that energized the competition and the clubhouse. There was Matt Carpenter’s spicy-salsa hot streak. The Cardinals were elevated by the excellent starting pitching of Miles Mikolas, and Jack Flaherty. There’s a bullpen that’s fluctuated between good and bad (as in bad headaches) but seems to be trending upward. The Cardinals have been inspired by the relentless pride and drive of catcher Yadier Molina, and the unbreakable determination of Adam Wainwright.

The Cardinals were drifting, and Shildt pulled them back in. One of the better in-season turnarounds we’ve seen.  And a late surge — 6-1 record in the last seven games — has the Cardinals perched in a favorable spot.

Down to six games now.

Only six.

Right down to the last fingernail.

The Cardinals are trying to protect a lead of 1.5 games over the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card. They are trying to erase a two-game deficit and jump over the Brewers, and into the first wild card spot.

The Cardinals have 87 wins, and every NL team that’s won 87 games since 2012 (and the addition of a second wild card) has made it to the postseason. FanGraphs projects 89.8 wins for the Cardinals. What the heck, let’s just round it out to 90. And as of Monday morning FanGraphs gave the Cardinals a 79.5% probability of qualifying for the payoffs. At Baseball Prospectus, the projection is for 89.8 wins from St. Louis … and a playoff probability of 77.4%.

The Cardinals are trying to barge back into the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

How will it turn out?

“We have six games left, and they will feel like playoff games,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. told me. “We’re in a dog fight to get in, but I like our chances. This is a tough and talented group that has gotten us to this point, and I believe in them.”

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: For the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, Home Is Where the Heart Is