Three games from entering the All Star Break, the Cardinals are not only 8.5 games back of the Cubs, but also without their star player, Matt Carpenter.
The goal for this St. Louis Cardinals team has always been to win the division. Throughout the first forty games of the season, it seemed that this task would be impossible. The Cubs, at the time, looked completely and utterly dominant. However, in the past twenty games the Cubs are only a mere 8-12. During this time, the Cardinals were able to diminish the deficit in the division to eight games. The hope of Cardinals Nation was at an all-season high. However, after dropping three of four games to the Pittsburgh Pirates at home, many people seem to have lost faith.
When coupled with the loss of the team’s most significant offensive contributor, Matt Carpenter, it becomes pretty easy to question the Cardinals playoff hopes. However, the Cardinals are still in no way out of contention. I have every hope that the Cardinals will do better in the second half than they have the first. Sure, they’re not in possession of a wild card slot and they’re still 8.5 games back from the Cubs, but there are still a lot of reasons to have faith.
Going into a baseball season you have to expect key players to be out with injury at some point. The right oblique Carpenter suffered two days ago may be the most significant the Cardinals have to face this season. On the bright side, this injury happened right before the All Star break, when the Cardinals will not have to play any games. A fellow writer for the site, Sam Pointer, wrote about this exact topic. Additionally, after losing three straight to the Pirates with Carpenter, the Cardinals were able to win the fourth without him. This isn’t to say that Carpenter was the reason the Cardinals were losing, just to show that the team can win without him.
Recently, the Cubs have shown that they are not the invincible juggernaut that the media portrays.
The Cubs were able to get off to such a good start because of their superb starting pitching. However, in the past 30 days, their rotation has posted a 4.17 ERA (compared to a season ERA of 2.89) and has posted a record of 9-12. While the Cubs starting pitching has deteriorated, the Cardinal’s starting pitching has improved. In the past 30 days, the Cardinals starting pitching has posted a 3.52 ERA, compared to a season ERA of 4.06.
Oddly enough, in the past 30 days, the Cardinals have only gone 13-14 as a team. This can be attributed to very poor performances out of their bullpen. Right when the starting pitching started doing well, the bullpen started doing poorly and the offense started to slow down. When the entire team beings to perform in-sync, they’ll start to make significant progress on the Cubs.
In the past, Cardinal teams have done exceptionally well when their playoff chances were on the line.
In 2011, the Cardinals were 10.5 games back, with 31 remaining games, from possessing a wild card slot. After winning 23 of the 31, the Cardinals were able to make an astonishing comeback for a playoff spot. Although the roster is very different from 2011, two of the team’s main leaders, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, were on that 2011 roster. Because of this, they know what it takes to put together a push for the playoffs. This shows that a team can never be counted out of playoff contention.
Because the starting pitching has recently improved (although having bad starts every now and then), and because Cardinals teams of the past have played great in high leverage situations, I believe there is no reason to worry about this team quite yet. The team’s offense has been one of the best of the league, and once the team gets their offense, starting pitching, and relief pitching all in sync, this team could make a tremendous push at not only a playoff spot, but even the division title.
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