The St. Louis Cardinals just finished up a great series taking three of four from the Cubs. However, they now have to focus up for the Reds.
It’s no secret that the St. Louis Cardinals are not where they want to be in the standings or in record right now. After sitting eight games above .500 early in the season, a horrid month of June left them as many as four games under .500 and 10 games back of the division-leading Brewers.
Fans have been angry (and have shown it in lower attendance) and there have been visual cues from the team themselves that they are unhappy with how things have gone. However, there is a lot of season left and the Cardinals have come out of the gates hot in the second half. First, they took two of three from the MLB-best Giants and now have taken three out of four from the spiraling Cubs to pull themselves back above .500.
While the Cardinals could’ve easily won all four games against the Baby Bears, a 5-2 start to the second half against two teams they needed to beat is huge. Before the series against the Cubs, it felt like it had the potential to be the most important series of the year to this point. If the Cardinals had lost three out of four, it could have pushed them to sell at the trade deadline just eight days away. Now though, they are surging and the pressure to add at the deadline is back on.
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While the Cardinals passed the important test against the Cubs, it’s now time for the newest ‘most important series’ in Cincinnati against the Reds. Coming into the series, the Cards are seven games back of the Brewers and the Reds are 6.5 back. Because of their struggles this season, the Cardinals don’t have any time to waste if they are going to make a push for the division again, making this series as close to a must-win as it can be in late July.
The Reds are coming off a couple of terrible series where they lost two of three from the Mets and got swept by the Brewers. After his MVP-level first half, Jesse Winker has cooled considerably in the last month, batting for a slash of just .176/.263/.294. The other heavy hitter, Nick Castellanos, has had a good month but was hit on his wrist with a pitch that is going to keep him out for a couple of weeks.
In short, the Reds are 1-5 since the All-Star Break and are in a position where they are wobbling like a stunned boxer. With the Cardinals coming to town, they need to deliver at least two more blows and jump ahead of them in the standings.
If the Cardinals can’t win the series and end up back at .500 on July 28th, it’ll be tough to argue that they should aggressively buy. However, if they end the series three games above .500 and ahead of the Reds in the standings, hope for making the playoffs could return.