It’s the middle of August and, once again, the Cardinals find themselves looking up when it comes to fighting for a playoff spot. Last season, they made a historic run in September overcoming a ten and a half game deficit to clinch the National League Wild Card spot in the postseason. This year, their task may be a little more difficult.
With the loss of Albert Pujols in the offseason, numerous experts predicted the Cardinals to be in the middle of the division and barely contend for a playoff spot. Because Carlos Beltran has put up MVP numbers, along with the hot hitting of Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Allen Craig, the Cardinals have claimed the best offense in the Major Leagues, statistically speaking. With Kyle Lohse having the best season of his career, along with Adam Wainwright finding his form of old and Jake Westbrook putting some early struggles behind him, the Cardinals seem to have a very real shot at making the playoffs. The problem this season is if the Cardinals win one of the wild card spots this season, they won’t necessarily be in the playoffs. They will have to play a one game playoff in order to actually make it into the postseason.
Based on the result of last season, it is foolish to assume the Atlanta Braves have clinched a playoff spot in Mid-August. With that being said, they appear to have one of the top teams in the National League as we speak. If the Braves keep up their current pace, they will win the top Wild Card spot and host the one game playoff. That leaves essentially four teams competing for the final spot: the Pirates, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals.
I don’t believe the Diamondbacks have what it takes to make a run at the playoffs. Their best pitcher this season has been Wade Miley, and he is a rookie. The offense has the ability to be streaky and unpredictable day in and day out. To sum it up, I don’t think the D-Backs will make the playoffs. The Dodgers have a solid 3-4-5 offensively when healthy. The problem is, when Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Hanley Ramirez are off, their entire offense pays for it. As for their starting pitching, Clayton Kershaw is the only player worth talking about.
That leaves the Pirates and the Cardinals. The Pirates offense has struggled staying consistent all season. Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker are the best offensive threats. The rest of the lineup is hit or miss. It’s a wonder the starting pitching has performed as well as they have all season. A.J. Burnett and James McDonald are their top pitchers, but are prone to struggles. With that being said, I think the Pirates will fall just shy of making the postseason for the first time in twenty years.
That means I predict the Cardinals to win the final wild card spot and face-off against the Atlanta Braves. Who holds the upper hand in a matchup such as this? Well, that’s another post for another day.