Things are about to get wild ... again.

Or more specifically, things are about to get wildcard.

When I wrote two weeks ago that the St. Louis Cardinals had forgotten how to lose, then having won nine straight games coming out of a weekend sweep of the San Diego Padres, in no way was I expecting the team to continue on to a franchise record 17 consecutive wins.

After watching that unfold, Cardinals fans come out of the regular season on cloud nine. After that run, it would be hard not to believe that this team could accomplish anything.

Storm clouds are gathering, though, as winning the second wildcard qualifies the Cardinals for a one-day playoff date with the defending World Series champion Dodgers in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers have poured a league-high $194.8 million into the payroll for this year’s team, making the Cardinals play the role of David to their Goliath. The Cardinals rank 14th in the league in payroll at $118 million, the third-lowest of any team in this year’s playoffs.

Only the Atlanta Braves ($112.7 million) and Milwaukee Brewers ($70.7 million) among teams still playing have spent less on player salary this year.

Although the Cardinals have the suddenly ageless-seeming Adam Wainwright going to the mound for Wednesday’s 7:10 p.m. clash at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers send out three-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer.

A homecoming for the St. Louis native Scherzer, a University of Missouri alumnus, has long been lusted after by fans of the birds on the bat.

However, with Scherzer in the final year of his deal with the floundering Washington Nationals, it was the Dodgers that swooped in at the trade deadline to snag his services, along with those of shortstop Trea Turner, in one megadeal.

Although the Cardinals had to settle for veteran lefties Jon Lester and J.A. Happ at a much lower price tag at the trade deadline, those deals have definitively helped the Cardinals get to this point and put Wainwright in a position to send the team deeper into October if he can out-duel “Mad Max” and his heterochromia iridum (one blue eye, one brown).

Wainwright, brought back on a one-year $8 million deal this past offseason, has been a godsend for the Redbird faithful.

In the doldrums of the summer months, it seemed as though Wainwright was the only thing keeping the Cardinals from falling over a cliff and into the breakdown and rebuilding stage the franchise has avoided for the past two decades.

On the strength of a new one-year, $17.5 million extension, we now know that Wainwright will be back with the Cardinals again through 2022 (Thank God).

The wildcard has been kind to the Cardinals.

Since its introduction in 1995, the Cardinals have been a wildcard team on four different occasions, earning a total of 21 postseason victories.

Eleven of those wins came in 2011, when the Cardinals were the National League wildcard team on the spark of a red-hot streak to end the season just like the one the Cardinals just experienced. 

The Cardinals carried that momentum all the way to the franchise’s 11th World Series title.

The following year, in 2012, the second wildcard teams in each league, and the resulting one-game playoff between each league’s set of advancing nondivision winners, were first introduced.

The Cardinals were the first-ever second wildcard in the National League in 2012 and upset the Braves in a one-game playoff in Atlanta on the rally-breaking controversial Pete Kozma infield fly call.

The Cardinals went on to beat the Nationals in a memorable divisional series in 2012 before falling to the San Francisco Giants in the league championship series in seven games.

Three other Cardinal postseason wins from the wildcard position have come during first-round losses to the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks (three games to two in the NLDS) and the 2020 Padres (two games to one in the COVID-19-modified wildcard round).