Having spent only two weeks of this season in first place, the Cardinals haven't looked the part of a playoff team for most of this season.
The team saved its best play for the last two months of the season, allowing St. Louis to tease a postseason run over the last three or so weeks. In the last few days its come with 1 1/2 games of the second NL wild-card spot held by the Rockies. But every last bit of postseason hope came crashing down Thursday night. All of it in the glove of Leonys Martín, who made this game-ending catch to mathematically eliminate the Cardinals.
The Cardinals began the night knowing they'd be eliminated with a loss (or a Rockies win on Friday). They could only muster one run off Chicago's pitchers, which featured Jen-Ho Tseng tossing a scoreless ninth, 10th and 11th inning in his second major league appearance.
Since 2000, this is only the second instance the Cardinals have missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons. St. Louis also sat out of October baseball in 2007 and '08.
Until the last fraction of the season, the Cardinals' playoff fate seemed to be a foregone conclusion. While it took a a little longer than expected for St. Louis to realize that fate, it's hard to imagine a tougher way for the team to do it.