If you're looking for the moment when the Cardinals late-season disgorgement transformed from a local sense of nervousness to a national jeez-that-car-is-about-to-crash fascination, it was last night. The Cardinals lost again, the Astros and Reds both won, the wild-card number is at five for the sixth straight day, the division lead is 1 1/2 and ... god, this is really happening.

And about 11 p.m. ET last night, after the Cardinals had lost again, the emails came pouring in. Some were to offer sympathies, some were to gloat, some were simply to make sure we hadn't stabbed ourselves. But last night was when they all arrived; last night it all became real.

So how do we feel? How can a Cardinals fan feel right now? This team never deserved to be in the playoffs — it's the worst Cardinals team we've seen since the McGwire homer years — and it felt somewhat cheap that they had built such a large division lead with such a poor team in the first place. Obviously, we still want the team to win the division — and the odds are still in the Cardinals' favor — and make the playoffs, but if they do complete the collapse, we can't feel like we were cheated out of anything.

The real victim of a fumbling away of the division title, were it to happen, would almost certainly be manager Tony LaRussa. The common theme these days: LaRussa will be the Gene Mauch scapegoat if they lose this. If pulling this off doesn't destroy the genius tag, nothing will.

But hey, we learned something: Apparently, T.O. is a Cardinals fan.

Cardinals Looking Like '64 Phillies [St. Louis Post Dispatch]
Game 156 Open Thread [Viva El Birdos]