The St. Louis Cardinals are headed to the playoffs for the third straight year.
They clinched a postseason berth with a victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
It certainly didn't look like the Cardinals were a playoff team for the first half of the season. They were three games under .500 as late as July 16 and fell to 53-55 on Aug. 5 when the Atlanta Braves finished a three-game sweep.
Turns out, all it takes is a well-timed winning streak to climb up the standings at the end of the year.
St. Louis defeated the Cincinnati Reds 6-4 on Sept. 11 to improve to three games over .500 in what appeared to be a fairly straightforward game between wild-card contenders. It was anything but, though, as it kickstarted the current 17-game winning streak that propelled the Cardinals into the playoff picture.
They swept fellow wild-card contenders in the New York Mets and San Diego Padres during the winning run and benefited from poor play by those two teams and the Reds at the same time.
Despite the impressive play of late from the Cardinals and the collapses from the Padres, Reds and Mets, they still have a monumental task ahead of them when it comes to succeeding in the playoffs.
After all, the NL West has featured the two teams with the best record in the National League battling it out all season: the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. The loser of that division race will be demoted to the one-game wild-card battle with the Cardinals and have home-field advantage in the contest.
If St. Louis manages to get past that game, it will have to face the winner of the NL West in a best-of-five series.
That means a deep playoff run probably isn't happening, but the combination of Tyler O'Neill, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and others is enough to threaten any pitching staff.
Throw in Adam Wainwright returning to dominant form at age 40, and the Cardinals won't be an easy out for the NL West representatives—especially given how well they have played down the stretch of the season.