If only the St. Louis Cardinals could have beaten some of the weaker teams they’ve played, they could be battling for the Central Division title instead of trying to hang on in the National League wild card race.
The Birds, fresh off of getting pushed around by the Los Angeles Dodgers, have taken care of business in Atlanta against the first place Braves. It defies explanation. But, somehow, after losing their grip on a playoff spot, they’ve got a game and a 1.5-game cushion for the second wild card.
I guess it’s good that the Redbirds are beating the better teams, because there isn’t much fluff left in their 2018 schedule. They have to play the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs to play out the string.
It doesn’t look like there is much chance of a division title anymore. But the Cardinals still have a lot to play for. A slump probably puts them out of October baseball. But a strong finish could make the difference between playing the wild card game in Milwaukee or playing it at Busch Stadium.
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It’s encouraging to see the Cardinals get some contributions from guys outside of Matt Carpenter and Yadi Molina. Carpenter, who carried the club for a month-and-a-half while in the midst of a power surge that led to his name being thrown into the NL MVP conversation, has gone ice cold in September.
During the past couple of days, Paul DeJong has taken the offensive yoke. Criticized for much of the season for losing 50 points off his 2017 batting average, DeJong cracked his 19th homer of the season Tuesday. For perspective, it took Ozzie Smith 13 years to amass 19 homers. DeJong did it in 400 at bats, too, after missing time following being hit by a pitch.
DeJong is no Ozzie Smith. But it’s a different game now. If he catches the balls he should get to and hits .240 with 25 homers — his total in a full season his rookie year — he’s a pretty darn nice seventh place hitter. Anything better than that is just gravy.
Other major contributors are the Cardinals’ young hurlers. What I find remarkable about them is that there has been no coddling. Remember when Tony LaRussa sent Darryl Kile to the post season press conference because he wanted to pretend that rookie Rick Ankiel wasn’t going to make a key playoff start against Atlanta? Well, that sort of thing isn’t happening with the likes of Jordan Hicks, who has been pressed into a more prominent role thanks to blisters on Bud Norris’ fingers; Dakota Hudson, who has taken on a job as the first guy out of the pen when the starter gets in trouble; or rookie starters Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber, who would likely be post season starters.
I hope the Birds can win now. But the future looks awfully bright on the mound. I just hope this team can add to the offense to balance things out.