The St. Louis Cardinals haven't been much of a factor in the 2021 season.
They fell far behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central early on. The NL West has mostly dominated wild-card talk. The Cardinals' trade deadline moves were adding rapidly aging pitchers J.A. Happ and Jon Lester, both of whom cost almost nothing.
All of a sudden, the Cardinals are in the wild-card mix. St. Louis is just 2.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres for the last wild-card spot, with a doubleheader against the Reds on Wednesday. Tuesday's game was postponed. The Cardinals are +115 underdogs in Game 1 on Wednesday and +135 in Game 2.
The Cardinals were two games under .500 after a loss to the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 5. They have played perhaps their best baseball of the season since, with old veterans Adam Wainwright, Happ and Lester solidifying the rotation. Getting Miles Mikolas off the injured list helped too. Mikolas starts the first game of the doubleheader Wednesday, with Happ going in the second game.
If the Cardinals want to stay in the race they likely need at least a split of this doubleheader. If they sweep, they're right back in it. I'd take the Reds in Game 1 (Cincinnati starter Wade Miley has been fantastic all season) and go against the Reds in Game 2 (starter Sonny Gray had a nice August but his season has been a little disappointing). But both games should have a playoff feel to kick off September.
Here is the first look at the sports betting slate for Wednesday:
Wait, football is on?
Sure is. Our first taste of midweek college football happens, as UAB meets Jacksonville State in a game that will be on ESPN. UAB is a 16.5-point favorite. So yeah, it's an FBS vs. FCS matchup, but at least both schools exist. Jacksonville State was in the FCS quarterfinals last spring, losing to Delaware. Still, UAB is a solid Conference USA team and it will hard to go against them.
Either way, it's pretty great to have football on a Wednesday night.
What's on the schedule for MLB?
There are four MLB games in the afternoon. Other than Reds-Cardinals, the second-most interesting afternoon game is probably the Houston Astros at the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners are +120 underdogs. They won 4-0 on Tuesday night and have been very profitable for bettors.
At night, the San Francisco Giants (-160) try to avoid a third straight loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, while the Los Angeles Dodgers look to sweep the Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers are -200 favorites with Max Scherzer pitching. The Dodgers start the day just a half-game back in the NL West.
Who cashed tickets on Tuesday?
The New York Mets' season probably isn't going anywhere, but they won two games against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday after their controversy with the fans. The first game against the Marlins was wild, with the Mets scoring five times in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5. That's a rough, rough beat for Marlins bettors.
The Philadelphia Phillies easily handled the Washington Nationals, which was the best bet here on Tuesday. The Phillies are finally taking advantage of a soft part of the schedule and are just 2.5 games back of the Braves in the NL East.
What's the best bet?
I don't know why I keep finding myself on the Phillies, who always seem to disappoint at the wrong times, but presumably they could be energized by getting back in the NL East race. They're -165 favorites but I prefer the run line of -1.5 at -105 odds, assuming they can win by two or more against a Nationals team that doesn't have a lot of fight left.
(UPDATE: Since the Phillies-Nats game was postponed, let's go with Rays -105 as the best bet.)