Cheap Seats

Cardinals have nothing to lose and everything to gain in late-season playoff push

Some people are panicked because the teams in front of the St. Louis Cardinals keep winning while the remaining schedule is only getting shorter.

But the fact that the Redbirds are in the race at all after such an uneven and frustrating season isn’t much short of a miracle. The Cardinals still have seven games left against the National League Central Division leading Chicago Cubs. So, as long as they keep winning, I’m not worried about what the other teams are doing, the Birds hold their fate in their own hands.

I’m looking forward to these fateful matchups for several reasons. First, the Wee Bears haven’t been able to get their act together all year, so all the pressure is on them. By all rights, they ought to be 15 games ahead of the pack. The Cardinals have everything to gain and nothing to lose, it’s just the opposite for the Chicago nine.

Second, I really like the way the St. Louis pitching stacks up against the Cubs. Chicago got career years from several of its starters last year. In 2017, not so much.

Jon Lester, John Lackey and Carlos Quintana all have earned run averages over 4.00 and the bullpen has its share of problems. These pitchers don’t have a scouting book on the Cardinals’ Memphis Mafia. While, historically, the Chicago batters had problems with former Cardinals hurler Mike Leake, I think they may have issues with Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty, pitchers that they haven’t seen in the past.

The Cardinals are a much different team than they were the last time the Cubs saw them because of the additions made to the pitching staff not to mention the emergence of Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader. These kids are used to winning with a historically good Class AAA club. And they’ve brought their winning attitude with them to the big leagues.

While they seemed to fumble away so many previous chances to make up ground against crummy teams — especially the ones in their own division — I can’t complain that they’ve been treading some water the past few days because the Birds have absolutely dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. They’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do and the day of reckoning in the National League Central is coming soon.

While the pressure is high on the Cubs not to blow a division title that pundits wanted to hand to them in spring training, it’s low on the Cardinals because many wrote this season off a long time ago. Besides, a recently cloudy future now looks bright because of all the talent St. Louis has seen graduate from the minor leagues.

I’m having trouble not getting ahead of myself and looking to the 2018 season when Alex Reyes will be back from Tommy John surgery to join the starting rotation and I sure hope the Redbirds use the money they’ll save from the expiring contracts of Jhonny Peralta, Jonathan Broxton, Seung Hwan-Oh, Lance Lynn and the trade of Leake to add a middle of the order bat and some bullpen help. There is still a lot of 2017 left to play — and it seems the most exciting part of the season is yet to come.