The Cardinals have finally punched their ticket and can focus on their postseason march to the World Series. It’s been a war of attrition for St. Louis during the regular season, but several factors point to a 12th title for the organization:
1. Matt Carpenter is built for October. The third baseman’s .299 average for September entering the nightcap last night was his highest monthly batting average this year since he hit .372 in April. And the 8 homers he’s slugged this month is the most he’s hit in a month this year. It’s no fluke, either. For his
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career, Carpenter has shown a pattern of starting and finishing his seasons on high notes. And that includes October.
2. A rookie is often an X factor. Giants second baseman Joe Panik made a name for himself by keeping his cool on D and at the plate in a rookie season that began in triple-A as the Giants thought veteran cast-off Dan Uggla might be the answer. He wasn’t. Blue Jays ace David Price was a September call-up for the Rays in 2008, fortifying a dominant pitching staff that carried them all the way to the World Series. Miguel Cabrera burst onto the national scene during the Marlins’ title run in 2003. Could Tommy Pham be that guy this year?
3. Uncle Charlie’s back! And Adam Wainwright will pitch out of the bullpen, which is a very good thing given how much postseason managers rely on relief pitching. Wainwright has played the relief role to some acclaim before. Remember the last time he pitched out of the pen? Wainwright closed out Game 5 of the 2006 World Series.
4. In the postseason, good pitching always beats good hitting. And the Cardinals staff has the lowest ERA in all of baseball right now. A bonus? Cardinals pitchers are good at neutralizing the running game. Granted, a lot of that has to do with having a future Hall-of-Famer behind the plate. But Cardinal pitchers have to be deceptive and quick to the plate to give Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz decent chances to get those runners.
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5. It’s the system, not the players. Maybe the most important factor is who the Cardinals are. As much grief opposing fans, team officials and players like to give The Cardinal Way, it works. Tommy Pham, Pete Kozma, Greg Garcia, Sam Tuivailala and other young players have been taught the Cardinal Way from the moment they signed, so they know exactly what they do and how to fit in when they join the big club. It’s a confidence builder not only for the players, but also manager Mike Matheny. The skipper knows he can rely on every single player on the roster. How do you think the team survived this year?