In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals caught the Atlanta Braves to win the National League Wild Card. They then went on to win the World Series. In 2012, the two have a chance to face each other in a one game playoff. In my previous article, I predicted who I believed would win the second wild card in the National League after the Braves won the first. After this past weekend’s series against the Pirates, I am inclined to change my mind. However, because I promised to talk about a potential matchup, I shall do so.
The first question for the Cardinals comes down to the starting pitcher for the one game playoff. It’s essentially between two pitchers: Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. Wainwright has a proven track record of delivering in clutch situations. He has performed phenomenally in every playoff game he has pitched, whether it be as a starter or a reliever. He has pitched a total of 17 and 2/3 innings in the postseason, striking out 22 and walking three while allowing only one earned run. While Lohse doesn’t have the postseason resume that Wainwright has, he’s been the most consistent starter the Cardinals have had all year. He has 12 wins heading into Tuesday and boasts an ERA under three.
While there are plenty of reasons to chose Kyle Lohse to pitch this game, I would go with Wainwright and it all boils down to one reason: despite his early struggles, he is still your ace. When it comes to pitching in high pressure games, you win and you lose on the arm of your ace.
When the Cardinals offense is rolling, they are the best in the league, but their biggest problem has been hitting with runners in scoring position. Since April, their offense has continued to struggle. If they happen to catch fire in September, then they will make a run at the playoffs. Unfortunately, they also have to hope that the arms of Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook, and Jaime Garcia all hold up. The Braves pitching staff has the capability to shut down the Cardinals offense. Between the two offenses, I would give the edge to the Cards. I can’t say that I am fully confident in their offense because they haven’t proven that they can sustain a good flow. Because of what happened last season, a matchup between the Braves and the Cardinals in a one game winner-take-all playoff would be fantastic for baseball.
I hope the Cardinals can perform better in September than they have lately. Fortunately, their number of games remaining against the Astros should benefit greatly (provided they don’t face Lucas Harrell or Bud Norris in those games). Maybe some of the September call-ups can light a fire under the current Cardinals players. Let’s hope that the team we know and love can make another historical run to the postseason.