Cards Eyeing Division Title as Other Top Teams Make Playoff Push


With last night’s blowout win against the Pirates, the Cardinals are now 11 and 5 since the All-Star break, including a seven game win streak during that stretch. On a night when the offense broke out for 11 runs, Jeff Suppan won his first game since last September, and Albert Pujols hit his 24th homer of the year, the biggest news came when the Redbirds added Jake Westbrook in a three-team deadline deal.

There is no doubt that this was one of the busiest trade deadlines in recent history with an abundance of talent on the market. In the end, St. Louis got the starting pitcher they were looking for to bolster their rotation. They may not have gotten a big-name guy like Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt, but Jake Westbrook should be a perfect fit for the Cards.

Westbrook can bring some valuable playoff experience to the table along with the ability to work quickly, get ahead of hitters, and consistently throw strikes. He also throws a dominant sinker as his feature pitch, which often fools hitters and induces many ground balls. These ground balls will likely result in more than a few double plays with the outstanding defensive infield of the Cardinals.

Westbrook will certainly need to adjust to being the fourth pitcher in the rotation after he was essentially the number one starter in Cleveland. However, I’m sure that’s an adjustment he is more than willing to make as he goes from last place in the A.L. Central to first place in the N.L. Central. […]

It is not easy to see Ryan Ludwick leave St. Louis, where he played three and a half seasons and produced 84 home runs and 305 RBI’s during that span. Ludwick contributed so much to the team and he will surely have success in the future with the San Diego Padres. Moving forward, rookie standout Jon Jay has a very bright future and should have no problem stepping into an everyday starter role. Jay is batting .383 in 49 games this year and has been a major factor in the Cardinal’s success.

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, the Cardinals are just one of many 1st place teams that have made upgrades to their roster for strong push to secure a spot in the postseason. In the American League, the Rangers, who seem to be getting better by the day, went out and got one of the best pitchers in the league in Cliff Lee. To finish it off, they acquired Jorge Cantu and Christian Guzman making them, in my opinion, the team to beat in the A.L. The Yankees made some noise as usual by getting star first baseman Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, and Kerry Wood. The White Sox were able to get pitcher Edwin Jackson, who already has a no-hitter under his belt this season with the Diamondbacks.

In the National League, the Braves traded for former Cardinal Rick Ankiel and reliever Kyle Farnsworth. It should be interesting to see if they can hold on to a slim division lead with Roy Oswalt and the Phillies in hot pursuit. Finally, the San Diego Padres, who many though would be sellers at the deadline, acquired Miguel Tejada along with Ryan Ludwick.

The Cardinals have battled back and forth with the Reds all year long for the N.L. Central, but Cincinnati chose not to make any moves whatsoever to improve their team. I believe that this makes St. Louis the clear favorite to go on and win the division. The Reds do have time to negotiate a deal for a player on waivers, but they may have let the best opportunities pass them by. If they decide to work with what they have, Cincinnati will have to hope that pitcher Edinson Volquez returns to his old form after recently coming off Tommy John surgery.

The Cardinals now have a pitching staff that is as good as any in baseball to go along with an excellent lineup from top to bottom. When everyone is playing up to their capability and doing the little things that it takes to win ball games, the Redbirds are extremely dangerous.

Albert Pujols has never finished a season with a batting average lower than .300, so you have to believe he will turn it around eventually in the final 58 games of the season. As long as the Cards can stay poised under the pressure of the playoff race and take things one game at a time, there is no reason to believe that they won’t win the division and make a deep run into the playoffs.