N.L. Wild Card Standings: Cardinals Maintain 2.5-Game Wild Card Lead

The St. Louis Cardinals' 5-4 win over Houston Thursday maintained the team's 2.5-game Wild Card lead over the surging Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals, who have now won four games in a row, will now travel to Chicago for a three-game set with the rival Cubs. The team follows that series with 3 at Houston, followed by a pair of home series against the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds.

Despite winning four games in a row and sweeping the Astros in the process, the Cardinals have been unable to extend their lead, due to the fact that Milwaukee has won its last five games. The Brewers have stormed back into the race by winning 8 of their last 9 games and posting a 14-4 record in September. Milwaukee's stretch run is much more difficult than that of the Cardinals. The Brewers will play their next six contests on the road at the NL East-leading Nationals and NL Centra-leading Reds before returning home to close out the season against Houston and San Diego.

Los Angeles, who entered last week's four-game set with the Cardinals in the thick of the race, have faded slightly. The Dodgers have won just 3 of their last 10 games and are 7-10 in September, falling 3 games back of St. Louis with a loss to Washington Thursday. Los Angeles also faces two division leaders in its final 12 games, playing a three-game series at Cincinnati this weekend before closing against San Diego, Colorado, and San Francisco.

Philadelphia's late run has sputtered following a disappointing series in Houston, where the Phillies lost 3 of 4 games to the hapless Astros. The team came back to take three games from the Mets this week, capping their sweep with a 16-1 win Thursday. However, the team remains 4.5 games back with just 12 to play. Furthermore, Philadelphia faces the most difficult schedule of all the contenders, with two series against Washington and another versus Atlanta still on the calendar.

Pittsburgh's sweep at the hands of Milwaukee this week left them 5.5 games behind the pace and effectively eliminated from the race. The same goes for Arizona, whose 6-5 loss to San Diego Thursday dropped them one game below .500 and 5.5 games behind the Cardinals.

For more on the Cardinals, visit Viva El Birdos. Head to Baseball Nation for all MLB news and commentary, as well as SB Nation's YouTube channel:

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