Zach Duke, who is in his 12th season pitching in the major leagues, has yet to appear in a postseason game. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI) 

By Rob Rains

Zach Duke can’t help but be a little jealous as he looks around the Cardinals’ clubhouse.

No matter which way he turns, Duke sees players who are younger than him, and with a lot less time in the major leagues, but who view playing in October as just a normal part of the season.

He has not been as lucky.

Duke is in his 12th season pitching in the major leagues – and is still looking to make his first appearance in a postseason game.

“It hasn’t worked out to this point,” Duke said. “I’ve wanted it for a long time. Some guys have been very fortunate to come up in this organization that knows how to win and get to the postseason. I came up in an organization that was quite the opposite.”

Duke spent his first six years in the majors with the Pirates, from 2005-2010.

“The Pirates were stuck in a 20-year streak of losing,” he said. “It’s tough. You can’t explain why it works that way for some guys and doesn’t for others.”

There are only two active pitchers who have made more regular-season appearances in the major leagues than Duke without making it to the postseason; Matt Albers, his former teammate on the White Sox, and Casey Janssen, who spent this season in the minor leagues.

Duke’s appearance in Monday night’s game in Colorado marked his 435th game in his major-league career, 15 less than Albers and two less than Janssen, but he has more years of service than both Albers and Janssen. His total number of games is less because he was a starter for much of his career.

Other than the rookies who are experiencing their first attempt to reach the postseason, such as Aledmys Diaz and Alex Reyes, there are only two players on the Cardinals’ roster who have never been to the playoffs – Duke and Jedd Gyorko, who played for the Padres from 2013 through last year.

Lance Lynn was a rookie in 2011, and even though he is out this year while recovering from Tommy John surgery, he has never been on a team which did not make it to the postseason. Matt Carpenter and Trevor Rosenthal came up in 2012 – and have been in the playoffs every year since.

“It’s something you don’t take for granted, but we’ve had a pretty good run, it’s been exciting,” Lynn said. “It shows you what kind of team we’ve had through these years and what the organization is about, trying to put a winning team together every year and never take a year off.

“Just because you’ve done it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Every year is a new year, and you have to figure out how to get it done that year. That’s been kind of the story everyone tells. … There are different ways to get in and be productive. That’s the way we take it every year.”

For the Cardinals to reach the postseason for the sixth consecutive year, they will have to win one of the two wild-card spots. Going into Tuesday night’s games, they were tied with the Giants for the second spot, one game behind the Mets, with 12 games left in the regular season.

“We’ve had times when the odds were stacked against us and we were able to come out,” Rosenthal said. “It happened because guys stayed focused and didn’t give up or give in to what people were saying. I think having that experience on this team helps.

“We’re going to have opportunities. We realize we have a good team, a lot of talent, and we need to maximize what we have in this locker room and take advantage of it.”

There are only four players on the current roster or disabled list who were on the last Cardinals team which did not qualify for postseason play, in 2010 – Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Jaime Garcia. The Cardinals won 86 games that year and finished second in the NL Central, five games behind the Reds.

“I hate it,” Wainwright said about the possibility of being on a team which might miss the playoffs. “I can’t stand it. When I tell people in the off-season when I will be back home, I always budget in seven months and say I will see you in November. I want to play all the way through October and I expect to play through October.”

Albert Pujols was second to Joey Votto in the MVP voting in 2010, and Wainwright finished second to Roy Halladay in voting for the Cy Young award that year.

“It was disappointing,” Wainwright said. “We felt like we had the best team, we just didn’t make it happen.

“I was talking with Alex (Reyes) the other day and he said, ‘Man, it’s so much more fun winning.’ I said, ‘Could you even imagine being on one of those teams that is 30 games under .500?’ I can’t imagine it … I never want to imagine it.”

Duke, 33, has been on his share of losing teams, but has come close to that elusive playoff appearance in the past.

He actually has been on three teams which made it to the postseason, but twice, with Arizona in 2011 and Washington in 2012, he was left off the roster for the Division Series and each time his team lost in that round.

Duke was on the Reds in 2013 when the team qualified for the wild card game, and Duke was on the active roster for that game but did not pitch as the Reds lost to the Pirates.

One of the first things Duke thought of when he found out he had been traded from the White Sox to the Cardinals was the possibility he might finally be able to pitch in the postseason instead of having to watch those games on television.

“It would be special for sure,” Duke said. “I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. The main thing is I just want to get the job done. It’s such an experienced group of guys in here who are known for winning. It’s fun to be in that kind of atmosphere and you just want to contribute.”

Duke has pitched well since joining the Cardinals in the trade for outfield prospect Charlie Tilson. He has allowed only three runs in 22 games, covering 20 2/3 innings, an ERA of 1.31, and has allowed only three of 21 inherited runners to score.

Two of the runs charged to Duke actually came from runners he left on base in the game against the Giants last Thursday, which scored after a hit allowed by Matt Bowman.

“This team is resilient, we battle back,” Duke said. “Even if things are really bleak one day you come out the next day ready to win again.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains