The Cardinals have shown that they have the talent to compete with anyone, but too often have they dwindled after flashing signs of brilliance.
The Cardinals opened up June with a record of 28-25, looking to take a win over the Brewers into a tough stretch that includes the Giants, Pirates, and Rangers all within the next two weeks. But, as they seem to do often in 2016, the Redbirds dropped a clunker to Milwaukee and now come into the Giants series at 28-26 and 9.5 games out of first place in the National League Central division.
While 28-26 is by no means a record to be disappointed about, Cardinals fans certainly have higher expectations for an organization that has not missed the postseason in a long time. Unfortunately, the Chicago Cubs have forced the Cardinals’ hand a bit, as they are putting together an unbelievable run to start the 2016 campaign. For Mike Matheny’s squad to get back in the race and put together more consistent stretches of good baseball, they will have to do these two things:
1.) Win More Home Games
The Cardinals currently have a 13-15 record at Busch Stadium in 2016, which is the worst home record of any NL Central team besides the Cincinnati Reds. While we love the fact that the Redbirds have been road warriors in 2016, it is imperative that they win more games at home this month and in the following months in order to stay in the postseason race.
Looking back at 2015, the Cardinals finished with a home record of 55-26, which tied them with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best in the National League. It is also interesting to note that each team that made the playoffs from the National League in 2015 had a home record that was 15 games above .500 or better.
This month, the Cardinals actually play a small number of home games, but they are all very important as they are against very strong opponents. The Giants, Astros, Rangers, and Royals all come into Busch Stadium in June and the Cardinals will have to be ready for the challenge. If the Cardinals want to come out of June still in contention in the National League Central, they will have to beat strong opponents at Busch Stadium.
2.) Rise Up to the Challenge vs. Quality Opponents
The Cardinals currently possess an abysmal 6-16 record against opponents that have a winning record. If this team wants to have any success going forward, this record must change sooner rather than later.
— Kevin Wheeler Show (@WheelerShow101) June 2, 2016
While the team is killing it against lesser opponents and using that to keep their record respectable, the inability to close out quality opponents will come back to bite the Cardinals come August and September, certainly in October. Mostly, beating quality opponents comes down to pitching. While the bullpen, anchored by Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Seung-hwan Oh, has been solid in 2016, the starting pitching has been very inconsistent.
Right now, it seems like the Cardinals’ starting rotation just cannot seem to click at the same time. While Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake are coming on strong now, guys like Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia have regressed a bit since the beginning of April. There’s no doubt that once the Cardinals pitching staff clicks, it is one of the best in the National League. But, they all have to come together soon in order to beat good teams.
Also, good defense always proves to be important in matchups against good teams, and the Cardinals certainly have their work cut out for them to improve in that department. While Aledmys Diaz has been on fire with a bat in his hands, he has been less than stellar in the field. He plays shortstop, a crucial position in the infield, and must cut down the number of errors he commits if the Cardinals are to win these critical games.