St. Louis Cardinals: Why sweeping the lowly Reds is a huge step

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 15: Greg Garcia
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 15: Greg Garcia /
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Despite Cincinnati’s struggles, the fact the St. Louis Cardinals swept the Reds was a big step in rebounding from the slow start to the season. Here’s why.

The Reds have been feeble, and there is no question the St. Louis  Cardinals are far more talented. However, sometimes it’s a matter of a ball getting a good bounce for a team to get a win and less the actual talent. That’s why you don’t normally see teams open as impressively as Boston has or win 80% of your games like top teams in leagues like the NBA and NFL.

So, even though the Cardinals are supposed to win on paper, that sometimes doesn’t mean they win all four. However, the team was able to put together the most complete series they have had all season and was able to keep the middling Reds down. However, it goes beyond that, here are three more reasons why this series was so important to win decisively for St. Louis.

1. The Cards were able to win an NL Central road series

The inability to win on the road against NL Central teams last season was a fatal flaw that arguably was the main reason that the Cardinals missed the playoffs. In years past, the Cardinals were always competitive and for the most part came out with a winning percentage in those games. However, that was not the case in 2017

The Cardinals went an abysmal 15-23 on the road in the NL Central last season, and struggled to perform. It showed that last year’s team wasn’t quite ready for the big games.

Related Story: A better showing in the NL Central is needed

With a four game road sweep under the belt, St. Louis now stands at 6-1 in divisional road games and 2-0 in divisional road series. Being able to beat your rivals on the road demonstrates both the talent and toughness necessary to be an elite team, and it helps in the standings considerably.

At the end of the day, you are competing less with your league and more with your division for 80% of the season. The divisional road series are arguably the most important series during the season because of that, so struggling in them does not generally translate to success. Here are the divisional road records of the previous five World Series winners.

YearTeamDivisional Road Record
2017Astros26-11
2016Cubs23-12-1
2015Royals23-16
2014Giants20-18
2013Red Sox22-15

As you can see, teams that have been successful are able to hold their own against their divisional rivals. The worst team on this list, the 2014 Giants, only won 88 games and won from the Wild Card in spectacular fashion, and even they finished over .500 against their road rivals.

If you want to be successful, it’s shown that you have to beat your rivals on the road. Hopefully the Cardinals can use this momentum to return to the divisional dominance they have exerted in years past.

2. The pitchers are making tangible progress

While it hasn’t been perfect, things are slowly getting better, and there have been a couple of minor breakthroughs during this series.

Miles Mikolas had his first good start of the season, pitching seven innings of one-run ball with just four hits and two walks allowed. Michael Wacha put together another decent outing, and Luke Weaver and Carlos Martinez have continued to cruise. But that’s not the most important part.

While the Reds struggle on offense, it’s good to see the bullpen actually be able to put games away. As I mentioned, its been far from perfect, but its been enough.

While Tyler Lyons looked like his usual self, guys like Mike Mayers and John Brebbia preformed well in late game situation, showing major league level control and poise. While the hitters on the Reds rosters are slumping, its still good to see guys throwing strikes.

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The biggest development though comes from a much older pitcher. Greg Holland regaining his control and pitching a clean inning is an important first step towards him eventually ascending back to the closer role where he recorded 41 saves with the Rockies last season.

The pitching has been as unstable as ever this season, and even got shaky in a few games this season. But they didn’t give up any leads, and that’s a start.

3. The Cardinals are over .500

This is more of a mental thing than anything. This series is the first point at any time this season that the team is over .500, and that can be a big relief. For a team in the position that the Cardinals are in right now in terms of projected standings, the team doesn’t have very much time to lose and learn.

Getting over .500 is an important milestone for a young team, and for any team in general. There’s a certain feeling of dread when you are below .500, and that you’ve won more than you lost simply makes you feel better and more confident.

Keeping momentum and a healthy mental state is more important in baseball than any other sport, and remaining over .500 is a good way to start maintaining those two things. While momentum at times can be fickle, keeping a positive mental attitude is very much in control of the player, and winning certainly helps bolster a player’s ability to stay positive through rough spurts.

For a young team who needs all the wins they can get, this is a bigger step than many realize.

Next: Cards vs. Cubs series preview

How important do you feel it was that the Cardinals won this series? Will it help them in the next series against the Cubs? Feel free to leave your thoughts below.