St. Louis Cardinals: Cards sweep the Reds, NL Wild Card tightens

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 9: Dexter Fowler
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 9: Dexter Fowler /

The St. Louis Cardinals completed a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in their final game at the Great American Ball park.

Don’t look now, but after the Chicago Cubs swept the St. Louis Cardinals last weekend, the Cardinals responded in a big way. There was no question the Cardinals needed to go into Cincinnati thinking sweep after doubling their deficit in the NL Central division. I was clear this sweep needed to be earned from game one.

After going down four runs by the third inning in game one, the very first thought in my head was, “If we lose this game, stick a fork in us. We’re done.” However, the St. Louis Cardinals, as is their custom in September, came back with five runs in the fourth inning, and all seemed right. Then the Cardinals gave up the lead and headed into the eighth needing a run to tie.

Dexter Fowler played hero for the Redbirds by hitting a game-tying home run in the top-half of the eighth inning. He would play hero was once again by knocking in the go-ahead run in the top-half of the tenth inning to secure a much-needed win for the Cardinals.

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After handling game two with ease, the St. Louis Cardinals would once again have to fight for the series sweep last night.

Even though the Cardinals never lost the lead during the game, the Reds were about as pesky as you can be in baseball.

The Reds chipped away at the Cardinals’ lead, but fortunately they came up just short in the ninth. I will say this about the Reds, if they had starting pitching, look out.

With the series sweep in hand, the St. Louis Cardinals, and Cardinal Nation, turned their attention to the TV monitors for the conclusion of the Cubs/Brewers game.

While there was some debate among the Cardinals Twitterverse about who to support winning, the Cubs came back in the ninth to beat the Brewers in ten innings.

Once that game had finished, everyone’s attention now turned to the Colorado Rockies. They matched up against the Padres last night, and you had the feeling something good was coming the Cardinals way. Normally, when I see a scoreless game by the fourth inning, it means pitchers are locked in.

That was definitely the case for the San Diego Padres, as they shut out the Rockies for the second straight game. Thanks to the loss, the Rockies have now lost four in a row. In what was a simple road trip to San Francisco and Sand Diego, the Rockies have certainly faltered from their valiant stand against the Dodgers and Diamondbacks a week ago.

So what does it mean for the playoff race?

DivisionGames BackWild CardGames Back
Chicago Cubs0Colorado Rockies0
Milwaukee Brewers4.5Milwaukee Brewers1
St. Louis Cardinals5St. Louis Cardinals1.5

Thanks to losses by the Rockies and Brewers, the St. Louis Cardinals were able to make up ground in one of the two races they are still in.

A chance at the NL Central crown is growing dimmer by the day. The Cardinals were not able to make up ground in the division race. At this point, with ten games remaining, if the Cardinals won their next ten games, the Cubs would only have to go 5-5 to tie them. Those are pretty good odds for the Cubs.

The one thing I continue to remind Cardinal fans is the fact the Cubs still have three games against Milwaukee this weekend, then come straight to St. Louis for four games. Seven games against the other two teams contending for the same division crown is no easy task. Both the Brewers and Cardinals could really put the pressure on the Cubs by next Thursday.

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However, if the Cardinals are going to even think about the division crown, then they need to take care of the Pirates this weekend. Unfortunately, the Cardinals will have a tough time against the Pirates, as they face their top-three pitchers in Ivan Nova, Gerrit Cole, and Jameson Taillon. The offense will need to step up huge this weekend to continue the playoff push. The Cardinals must get to their starters early on, or else it could be a long weekend.

Now lets turn our attention to the even closer NL Wild Card.

As I mentioned earlier, the Rockies four straight losses has left the door open for the St. Louis Cardinals. With the lead now down to 1.5 games, the Cardinals still face a tough task in claiming the second wild card spot to themselves.

The Rockies and Brewers both stand in their way, but things could rapidly change this weekend. The Rockies still have three games against the Padres this weekend, so there is a good chance they will win two of those three. However, given their recent play, the Padres continue to play spoiler, much to the joy of the Cardinals.

What has to happen this weekend?

Much like the Reds series, the Cardinals need to sweep the Pirates. They cannot afford losses to inferior opponents. I know that will be difficult against the pitchers they are scheduled to face, but they need to battle. They need to show more fight than they did last weekend, that’s for sure.

Do that, and it all becomes a watch party from there. Whether you think the Cardinals have a shot at the division or not, the fact of the matter is they need help from other teams. The Cardinals control their wins, but not their destiny. That would be up to the Padres and Brewers or Cubs, depending on how you look at it.

The goal of this weekend should be reaching a playoff spot. The only one that can be attained is the wild card, but at least it’s a spot, right?

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First things first, take care of business this weekend. Then, we wait for everyone else.