With two weeks left to go in the regular season, the Cardinals are in striking position to take a Wild Card spot
Rookies once again paved the way yesterday for the Cardinals in their 3-0 shutout victory over the Giants. Young flamethrower Alex Reyes started off strong on the mound and remained that way over his 7.0 innings of shutout work. The only threat from the Giants came in the 6th inning with the basses loaded and two down. Reyes had different plans as he induced a fly out to left field off the bat of Eduardo Nunez on a first pitch curveball quelling the threat. At the end of the day, Reyes tallied six strikeouts while only allowing four hits.
On the other side of the field, the scoring was highlighted by Aledmys Diaz’s two run shot off of Suarez in the 3rd. It was Diaz’s second home run since coming back from the disabled list. With the win, the Cardinals climb to within one game of the second Wild Card spot currently held by the Giants.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 18, 2016
The only thing standing in the Cardinals’ way is themselves
As of September 18th, the Mets have a one game lead on the Giants for the first Wild Card spot while the Giants in turn have a one game lead on the Cardinals. Each team has 13 games remaining for the regular season. However, those 13 games are not all equally difficult. Looking at the Mets first, they have the easiest scheduleby far with seven games against the Phillies (67-83), three against the Braves (58-91), and three against the Marlins (74-75). They do not play a single team that sits above .500 although the Marlins are close. This gives the Mets a sizable advantage for the Wild Card spot. Assuming they can capitalize on an easy schedule, the Mets are essentially a lock for a spot.
Next, let’s look at what the Giants have left: six against the Dodgers (84-65); four against the Padres (62-87); three against the Rockies (72-77). And finally the Cardinals: three Rockies (72-77); four Reds (63-86); three Cubs (94-55); three Pirates (74-75). As for their records against the individual teams, neither the Cardinals nor Giants have noteworthy success. Both clubs are about .500 against the remaining schedule, and both play only one club above .500. The Giants, however, have the disadvantage as they play the Dodgers six times while the Cardinals only face the Cubs in three games. If the Cardinals take advantage of their easier schedule, they could leap over the Giants.
Returning players tip the scale in the Cardinals favor
Another potential advantage the Cardinals have is the return of key players such as Diaz and Trevor Rosenthal. Although Rosenthal has not seen success this season, he can still be a force out of the bullpen. His return gives Matheny more weapons to utilize which is important this late in the season. Diaz’s return is probably the most exciting as the rookie currently has a slash line of .307/.372/.895. The season that he has put together has been incredible to watch so far. The Cardinals offense will surely benefit from his return.
The Cardinals are not exactly rolling right now. They’re 3-7 in their last ten, got rolled over by the Cubs, and to say the least did not impress in their first two games against the Giants. There are some glaring issues with this team, most of which have to do with the performances 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate.
According to mlb.com, the Cardinals only have a 34% chance of making it to the postseason. Although this is not a highly trustworthy stat, it is something to consider. However, the Giants have scuffled recently by dropping five of their last seven. If that trend continues, the Giants will have a tough remainder of the season. I believe the Cardinals have much higher than a 34% chance to bring October baseball back to St. Louis.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Curry-USA Today