The St. Louis Cardinals Are Working Their Magic Once Again

An improbable walk-off win by St. Louis has them making the NL Central race an interesting one.

On June 30th, the St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Kansas City Royals 4-2.

That loss put them 11 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central, and it sure didn't look like, heading into the All-Star break, that St. Louis was going to challenge the mighty Cubs for the division crown.

Fast forward to Thursday night, when the Cardinals overcame a four-run deficit in the bottom of the 8th inning and beat the San Diego Padres 6-5 on a walk-off hit by St. Louis super-rookie Aledmys Diaz.

That victory drew the Cardinals to within 6 1/2 games of the idle Cubs in the division, the closest they've been to first place since May 2. But it was how they won that should put fear into Cubs fans. St. Louis' magic may once again be brewing.

First, take a look at FanGraph's win probability chart for this game. It was pretty ridiculous.

Take a look at where the line is in the 8th inning. When Yangervis Solarte homered to lead off the top of the 8th for the Padres, it pushed their lead to 5-1 and the Cardinals' odds of winning the game to 3.0.%.

In other words, 97% of the time, when the visiting team has a 5-1 lead with no outs in the 8th inning, they win the game. Last night was one of the 3%.

Leading off the bottom the 8th, Jeremy Hazelbaker hit a double, pushing the Cardinals' win percentage to 6.9%. Jedd Gyorko drove him home with an RBI single, making the score 5-2 and increasing the Cardinals' win percentage to 12%.

Aledmys Diaz flied out for the first out, but then Kolten Wong hit a double, putting runners at second and third with one away. The Cardinals' chances of winning were 17.5%. Stephen Piscotty then swung the game entirely in St. Louis' favor with a three-run homer that tied the game at five. St. Louis' win percentage jumped to 55.7%.

San Diego went quietly in the top of the 9th, with the Cardinals now 62.8% to win the game. Tommy Pham led off with a double (80.3%), Greg Garcia was intentionally walked (80.8%), and Hazelbaker sacrificed both runners, putting runners at second and third with one out (83.8%).

After Gyorko was intentionally walked to load the bases (82.9%), Diaz sent everyone home with his walk-off win.

The Cardinals have now won four in a row and are 7-3 in their last 10, while the Cubs have struggled, going just 5-5 in their last 10 games. But St. Louis is also now just one game back in the National League wild card and appear to be making their move.

The Cardinals' magic is simply omnipresent.