Just a couple of weeks ago, you all heard a lot about how important the 13 games against the Reds and the Pirates were. Now it’s time to see how well the Cardinals fared over that period.
Honestly, I’m calling this stretch of games an absolute success. Did the Cardinals run away with the NL Central? No they did not, and they could have. But they did go 7-6 and left that stretch with a game and a half lead, finishing it off with a crucial sweep of the rival Pirates (who have now lost four straight, and still do not have the guarantee of a winning season).
The Cards faced two very good teams, both of which are exceptionally good at home. Finishing above .500 in that stretch of games is an accomplishment and a very good sign.
An oft used cliché states that winning teams play .500 ball against the good teams and beat up on the bad ones. The Cardinals got the first half of that done, now they have the rest of the season to demolish the losers.
Over the final 19 games, the Cardinals play just one team with a record over .500 (the Washington Nationals). This is the time for St. Louis to win big and pick up momentum before heading into the playoffs. Given the caliber of their upcoming opponents, a hundred win season is still not out of reach for the Cards.
It’s still absurd (they’d have to go 17-2 to get there), but let’s take a look at their opponents.
St. Louis plays the Brewers twice, once at home and once on the road. The Cardinals are 4-2 against them at Busch Stadium, and 5-1 against them at Miller Park. If they continue to play at that clip (winning 2 of 3 at home and sweeping them on the road), then taking 4 or 5 of the six games against Milwaukee is not out of the question.
The Cardinals then take on the Seattle Mariners. They have not played the Mariners this year, but word is they stink. They have a 65-78 record, and St. Louis probably won’t have to face their ace, Felix Hernandez. Maybe the Cards can sweep them, but I think a safe bet would be 2 of 3.
The only series St. Louis plays on the road other than the one against the Brewers, is a four game series against the Rockies, and the Cardinals took 2 of 3 from them when they last visited Denver. Splitting the series shouldn’t be too hard, and taking 3 of 4 isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
The Cards then go on to play the Nationals. They have been hot lately, and may be more of a threat than I think, but if the Cardinals take them seriously, they should be able to stop them. If St. Louis can sweep them on the road, then they can sweep them at home. At the very least, they should win 2 of the 3 games.
Finally, the Cardinals finish off the season with a series against the Cubbies. Chicago has been bad, but the Cardinals haven’t played them terribly well this season, going only 9-7 against them. But that doesn’t make the Cubs a better team, it just means that St. Louis has to step up for the final series. I doubt that the Cards will get swept, and if they play well, taking 2 of 3 seems likely.
If you add all that up, the Cardinals should win between 11 and 16 of their remaining games.
Now, I’m not foolish enough to think that it will all break down this way, but it is promising to see that the rest of the Cardinals’ season should be easy enough for them to finish strongly.
St. Louis showed its mettle during its stretch of games against the contenders, now it’s time for them to flex their muscles a bit against the little guys and keep their hard-fought lead.