By Keith Antigiovanni
The National League Wild Card game between the St Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves is not only the first year for this postseason experiment but matches two great successful NL franchises that have forged a memorable postseason rivalry the past 30 years. The Cardinals are the most successful NL franchise ever while the Braves are the best NL team since 1991 and have future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones in his final playoff run after announcing it would be his final year.
In 1982 Whitey Herzog's led the Cardinals to the NL East title while Joe Torre led the Braves to the NL West title. St. Louis went on to sweep the Atlanta in the NLCS en route to the World Series title over the Brewers. Herzog would lead the Cardinals to two more WS appearances in 1985 and 1987 while Torre would be dismissed after the 1984 season.
In 1996 Tony LaRussa led the Cardinals to the NL Central title in his first year as manager for the Redbirds, made the NLCS and were leading the defending WS champion Braves 3-1 until Atlanta stormed back and won the final three games and get back to the World Series.
In 2011 the Braves led the Wild Card for most of the year until a late season collapse and a Cardinal late season run gave St. Louis the playoff berth en route to their 11th World Series title.
Its only fitting that the Braves face the team that nudged them out on the final day of the 2011 regular season and for the Cardinals to defend their title as a true Wild Card team after winning it all as a Wild Card team the previous year.