The St. Louis Cardinals did an excellent job by winning of seven of 10 games on a treacherous West Coast road trip.
But they don’t have any time to relax and take stock of their accomplishment.
The Cardianls will start a home stand Monday that includes series against the desperate Washington Nationals, the second place team in the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the third place Chicago Cubs.
There are important games not only because two of the three series are head-to-head with NL Central opponents. But also because, while St. Louis is playing a string of opponents with records better than .500, Pittsburgh is about to enjoy a bunch of easy games including seven against the Milwaukee Brewers and three against the Cincinatti Reds.
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If the Cardinals can hold off their two pursuers in the short term, it will help that the Cubs and Pirates have seven gales against each other later in the month. Meanwhile, the Cardinals will get their turn against weaker teams with two series each against the Reds and Brewers.
This may turn out to be the most crucial week of the season, not only because of the schedule but because by the second week of September the Redbirds should start to get some of their injured players including Matt Adams, Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk and Jon Jay.
But, while the Nationals, 6-4 in their last 10 games, will throw everything they’ve got at the Cardinals as they try to hang on to any chance they have to catch the New York Mets, St. Louis has some things playing in its favor, too.
The Cardinals are 46-19 at home, they’re getting closer Trevor Rosenthal back after he missed the weekend games while on paternity leave and the Birds are seeing signs of life from sluggers Mark Reynolds (.313 over the past week with two homers) and Brandon Moss (.308 with two homers in the last week).