A night after clinching their fifth straight NL East title, I figured the Philadelphia Phillies would have a bit of a hangover. That, combined with Chris Carpenter on the mound led to a 5-0 Cardinals win as they close the gap back to 3.5 games in the wild card.

The Braves lost 7-5 to the Mets and while Atlanta is limping toward game 162 of the regular season, the Cardinals also have to be concerned with San Francisco. The defending World Series champs are just a half game behind the Cardinals after having won their eighth straight.

The Cardinals wrap up their series with Philly this evening with Kyle Lohse facing Roy Halladay before finishing with a favorable schedule with the Mets and Cubs at home and the final three games at Houston. Atlanta faces Florida tonight with their magic number at 7 with nine to play. The Braves are at Florida and Washington before ending the season with Philadelphia which could be interesting.

The Phillies could help determine who makes the playoffs and they could dictate who they play in the first round. Not saying they would intentionally lose, but resting starters and pitchers could help Atlanta. If the Phillies beat up on the Braves, and the Cardinals sneak in, would the Phillies want to face the Cardinals in a first round playoff series? Or would they rather let Atlanta get in and take their chances with most likely the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks who should clinch the West, but have the worst record of the three division winners?

We can’t forget about the defending World Champs. The Giants have won eight in a row and are the hottest team in baseball right now and its usually those hot teams that sneak in the final week of the season. They open a series with the Dodgers and need to face their star Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday. After that three game series, they go to Arizona where the division title will most likely still be up for grabs. The Giants finish at home against Colorado, who they just swept in four games.

Matchup wise, I like who the Cardinals have in their final 10 games over Atlanta and San Francisco, but the Cardinals have shown they tend to play down to the level of talent across the diamond. With less than a dozen games to go, the playoff picture is still cloudy.