By Keith Kuetemann
For The Cardinal Nation Show
(The Cardinal Nation Show) -- The Cardinals travel to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers Thursday night in a matchup of Wild Card hopefuls. First pitch is set for 9:10 central time with Josh Beckett taking the ball for the Dodgers and Lance Lynn, filling in for the sidelined Jake Westbrook, getting the nod for the Cardinals.
The Dodgers are only a single game behind of the Cardinals for the second and final Wild Card spot in the National League and could overtake the Cardinals by the end of this pivotal 4-game series.
Trying to right the ship, not only for the struggling Cardinals, but for himself, will be Lance Lynn. After an All-Star performance in the first half of the season, Lynn has struggled. In his last start before being moved to the bullpen, Lynn surrendered 6 hits and 4 earned runs in only 2 innings of work. His bullpen outings since his demotion have been a bit shaky as well. He's allowed 5 earned runs over 7 innings.
Even considering all these negatives, manager Mike Matheny says Lynn is the best choice to fill Westbrook's rotation spot in this big game. "Lance has been a pitcher that has pitched in as high-leverage situations as anyone. We know that's not going to affect him, and we believe in his stuff."
As nice as it is to hear a voice of confidence coming from the Cardinals camp, this may not be the right time to send a struggling pitcher out to the mound. With only 19 games remaining in the Cardinals' regular season, the Redbirds desperately need wins. While the Dodgers pose the most immediate threat to the Cardinals playoff hopes, they may not pose the most dangerous one.
While the Dodgers have struggled as of late, the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies have done anything but. In what looked like lost seasons a month ago, the Brewers and Phillies have turned things around recently and loom only 4 games back of the final Wild Card spot.
As the Cardinals make their final push for the playoffs, a lot remains to be decided. If St. Louis can find a way to turn things around the way the Brewers and Phillies have, they have as good a chance as anyone to clinch that final wild card spot.
If they continue to struggle as mightily as they have for the past few weeks, a number of teams could creep up and steal away the final playoff spot and kill any dreams of a repeat championship season in St. Louis.