St. Louis Cardinals: The importance of the first few weeks of 2019

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 24: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits an RBI double against the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on September 24, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 24: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits an RBI double against the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on September 24, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

With a team that’s as talented as it has been in years, the St. Louis Cardinals have an interesting set of series to open the 2019 season.

While the first few weeks of a season are always important, the hefty expectations that have been placed on this particular St. Louis Cardinals team’s collective shoulders, getting off on the right foot is crucial towards a healthy season.

What’s more, the Cardinals schedule over the first several weeks has an interesting mix of divisional and non divisional games that make the opening of this season a rather interesting one.

Let’s take a look at how the first four series of the season can set the table for the 2019 St. Louis Cardinals.

Series 1: STL @ MIL: Brewers Home Opener

Length: 4 games (3/28-3/31)

The St. Louis Cardinals begin their season with an excellent opportunity to set the tone in what’s slated to be the most competitive NL Central in the past decade.

The Brewers have put together their best team in years behind NL MVP Christian Yelich and a strong bullpen led by Josh Hader. While this series isn’t a cakewalk, it is a great opportunity for the Cardinals to establish their offensive improvements early on.

While the bullpen of the Brewers was incredibly sharp in 2018, their starting pitching was a bit more vulnerable. It certainly wasn’t bad, but a 3.92 ERA and 4.32 FIP isn’t something to be particularly intimidated by.

The big thing with the Brewers is that their number one starter hasn’t truly been established. Their lowest ERA came from a Wade Miley anomaly, and their number 1 starter in Jhoulys Chacín had a 3.50 ERA that isn’t terrible, but leaves much to be desired.

If the Cardinals can establish their offense early following a rather dreadful Spring Training, I would expect it to do wonders for their confidence level. With the expectations mounting on this new and improved Redbird roster, the pressure to perform will be present from the first pitch.

Setting the tone for the season against one of the scarier division rival should do wonders for the team.

Series 2: STL @ PIT: Pittsburgh Home Opener

Length: 2 games (4/1,4/3)

While Pittsburgh is probably the weakest team in the NL Central, that doesn’t mean that these games aren’t important. If each of these series represent an aspect that the Cardinals need to be a successful team, this series represents the need to be consistent against the teams you are more talented than.

I have personally suffered the terrors of inconsistency against bad teams first hand not only with recent St. Louis Cardinals teams, but with teams I support in other leagues. Specifically, Tottenham Hotspur of the Barclays Premier League have put together some talented teams, but have trouble competing for titles in part because of their struggles against some of the worst teams in the league.

In a division as competitive as the 2019 NL Central is slated to be, this cannot happen to the Cardinals. Even with a tough series in the rear view mirror and a long series ahead, a lack of complacency here would go a long way towards reestablishing the winning Cardinals mentality that has been lacking for the last few seasons.

The Pirates aren’t just going to roll over either. They have some talented up and coming players, and are a team that is actually positioned to make some major improvements in 2019, even with such a dramatic increase in competition.

The St. Louis Cardinals simply cannot take this matchup lightly, because as many wins as possible here will most likely be important for what lies ahead.

Series 3: SD @ STL: Cardinals Home Opener

Length: 3 games (4/4, 4/6, 4/7)

For obvious reasons, the first home series of the season always has some importance, but there’s a bit of extra flare this year.

While the Padres are still nothing special, they are a team that is on the rise, and just paid out one of the largest contracts in major league history to Manny Machado. Now, Machado isn’t just any star: he’s one that is incredibly unlikable.

Whether it was the purposeful kick while running to first or the “Johnny Hustle” comments he made, there are not many teams outside of the Padres with fans who actually like Machado.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player, and that star power will bring a little extra hype into this matchup. Additionally, hyped prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. may very well be on the way for San Diego, and his appearance would make the matchup even more exciting.

Winning your first series at home has its importance, but with the monumental expectations for this season paired with the new makeup of the Padres make this home opener the most important one in years.

Series 4: LAD @ STL: VS Defending NL Champs

Length: 4 games (4/8-4/11)

Even after their salary dump this offseason, the Dodgers still have one of the top payrolls in the league, and success has come with it. Though a championship has yet to return to the City of Angels, two consecutive World Series trips would be considered successful in many eyes.

Even if the makeup of the team is much different than it was in those seasons, picking up a series win over the 2-time reigning NL champs isn’t anything to scoff at.

The health of both Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen are still somewhat up in the air, so these could turn into easier wins against the favorites in the NL West, which would still be a great way to start the season off.

If they are fully healthy, this could also serve as the games where the St. Louis Cardinals can gauge exactly where they are and where they need to be in the NL race. It could come down to the best teams in the NL being all from the Central, but when this series comes along, the Dodgers will still be the team to beat in the NL.

Next. Rebooting the Cardinals top 10 prospects. dark

If the St. Louis Cardinals can get off to a good start in these series, they will set themselves up for a great season. However, while I think there will be improvements, these games will be a decent reflection of how this season will go, so I believe it’s crucial the Cardinals are in stride by the time these series are over.