Getting to the playoffs won’t be easy for the St. Louis Cardinals. On Friday, however, they showed what it will take to make it happen.
With the St. Louis Cardinals only 1.5 games back in the National League wild card race, and still trailing the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies, the recipe to eventually pass them is clear: get good enough pitching from the starting rotation and rely on Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt to carry the offense.
For the last few weeks, Goldschmidt has carried the offense. He is hitting .370/.443/.717 with seven home runs and 23 RBI in the last 28 days. Arenado, meanwhile, is hitting .223/.288/.457 with six home runs and 19 RBI in his last 28 days, including a .191/.224/.340 slashline over his last 14 days. Quite simply, catching each team in the wild card race, let alone passing them, will be borderline impossible unless Arenado steps up and gets hot with Goldschmidt at the same time.
At long last, Arenado showed what that would look like. In a 15-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, arguably baseball’s hottest team after winning three of four games against the San Francisco Giants, Arenado hit two mammoth home runs, drove in four runs, and came close to hitting two more home runs.
There has been evidence that Arenado has been close to breaking out of his slump, slashing .286/.318/.429 in his last six games, but nothing to suggest a power surge like that. It marked his first multi-homer game of the season and couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cardinals, who gained ground on both the Reds and Phillies.
But what stood out on Friday night, in addition to Arenado, was how the offense exploded. Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, Edmundo Sosa and Yadier Molina all hit home runs. They scored 15 runs on 12 hits, leaving only four runners on base, and maximized every offensive opportunity that presented itself.
This is how the Cardinals envisioned the offense looking this season. They saw Arenado leading the way while Goldschmidt produced at a high level while both opened up opportunities for others in the lineup. Of course, when that has happened this season, the Cardinals have had a hard time replicating that success. Perhaps this time will be different.
But this is the key to the Cardinals advancing to the postseason and Friday night served as the perfect blueprint.