Down the Stretch


Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In my mind, I can’t help but feel that tonight marks the beginning of “the stretch.” We aren’t quite in the final month, but the next thirteen games against the Reds and Pirates seem so crucial that I can’t keep myself from feeling as if this is the Cardinals’ chance to shine or fail.

I have no doubt that we will see our beloved Cardinals in at least one playoff game, but the next few days could decide the fate of the division, and thus whether or not the Cardinals get a free pass into the real playoffs or not.

It’s gonna be hard, but St. Louis looks prepared to take the first place spot in the next few days.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are dangerous and worthy opponents, but the Cardinals are simply stronger.

In terms of Pythagorean Record, the Cardinals should have a five and a half game lead over the Reds, and a ten game lead over the Pirates. Clearly this isn’t true, but the Cardinals legitimately ought to be able to handle its rivals over the next few days.

The Pirates have better pitching than the Cardinals (leading the majors with a 3.19 team ERA), but St. Louis’ staff isn’t anything to scoff at either, posting a 3.48 ERA, good for fifth in the league. That difference seems pretty large, but in terms of runs allowed, the difference is only about 26 runs.

And the Cardinals’ offense is significantly better than Pittsburgh’s, having scored 120 more runs than the Bucs thus far. Recently, the Pirate’s offense took a big hit when lead-off man Starling Marte went down. In addition, Cardinal killer Pedro Alvarez is in the midst of an atrocious slump, hitting just .198 with 4 home runs in the month of August. Basically, the Pirates had a weak offense. With the timely (for the Cardinals) loss of Marte and the slump of Alvarez, it’s even weaker. The Cardinals’ pitchers shouldn’t have a problem with Pittsburgh’s lineup.

Finally, the Pirates as a team have been struggling, playing sub-.500 ball in the month of August, while the Cardinals have regained some of their mojo, going 14-10.

The Reds pose their own challenge, but the Cardinals have handled them well this season, winning 8 of 12. Hopefully, that trend will continue, and there’s little reason to think it won’t.

The Red’s pitching staff, though a little better than the Cardinals’ on paper (3.37 ERA), is missing ace Johnny Cueto. St. Louis’ strong offense should be able to handle it.

Speaking of which, Cincinnati’s offense hasn’t looked nearly as good as the Cardinals’, hitting only .248 to St. Louis’ .272, and scoring 68 fewer runs to this point in the season.

Though the Cardinals have a tough schedule for the next 13 games, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. Should St. Louis handle their rivals well, they could take a significant lead in the NL Central.