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10/29/11 12:33 AM ET

It's like the Wild Card was named for them

The 2011 postseason proved once more that the path to playoff glory begins by just getting there.

The Cardinals, the first Wild Card team to even make the Fall Classic in four years, beat the Rangers, 6-2, on Friday night to become the fifth such postseason entrant to win a World Series since the Wild Card's inception in 1995. They're the first Wild Card team to take the title since the Red Sox broke through in 2004 to win it all.

It was the Marlins in 1997, in the third year of the Wild Card's existence, that first proved a non-division winner could do it, taking a seven-game Series against the Indians. It took the Angels seven games, too, in 2002, to move past the Giants and become the first Wild Card team to go all the way for the American League.

The 2011 Cardinals are the fifth Wild Card team to win a World Series.
Year Team
2011 Cardinals
2004 Red Sox
2003 Marlins
2002 Angels
1997 Marlins
That kicked off a mini-trend: The Wild Card Marlins won their second title in 2003, in six games against the Yankees, and the Wild Card Red Sox swept the Cardinals in 2004. After that, a Wild Card team appeared in the Fall Classic the next three years, but fell each time.

Then came the drought. No Wild Card team made it into the Fall Classic, or in the NL even past the first round, from 2007-10.

That a Wild Card team would win it all this season couldn't be more fitting. The Cardinals in the NL and the Rays in the AL both set records for overcoming the largest September games-back deficits in history. The Rays and Cards were both 8 1/2 games out of a playoff spot on Sept. 1, with St. Louis 10 1/2 games back in late August.

But the Cards persevered, showing that seeding means little once the games begin.

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.