The Cardinals are locked in a heated battle for one of two wild card spots. The team has some bright spots but there are definitely areas in which they can improve. Looking even closer, here are some players who need to heat up for the home stretch.

Michael Wacha

In the 2016 season, Wacha has been a shell of himself. The 25 year old has had his worst season since coming up to the majors. He has posted a 4.38 ERA, exactly a full run higher than his 2015 campaign ERA. He has given up 131 hits in only 121 innings. Wacha’s struggles are a huge reason why the Cardinals have not lived up to their full potential last year. He has only won 6 games this season where as at this point last season, he had already won twice as many. Wacha’s struggles are a huge reason as to why the Cardinals are not currently in a playoff spot and if they want to play in October, Wacha needs to step up.

Tommy Pham

Coming into the 2016 season, Pham looked to be a huge piece in the Cardinals young outfield core. After starting the season on the DL and then sent to the minors in favor of Jeremy Hazelbaker, Pham has yet to find his form. He has hit .230 on the season and has been a huge disappointment. The Cardinals outfield has had many concerns this season and Pham’s disappearance has not helped the cause. Their outfield played so poor at one point, Kolten Wong was forced to play Center Field. It is time for Pham to either start playing well or to go back to the minors to make room for someone else.

Jhonny Peralta

I was conflicted whether or not to put Peralta on this list. He has been plagued with injuries and is just coming off the DL. I decided to put him on because the Cardinals really need him to play well in the next two months. Diaz just hit the DL with a fractured thumb so Peralta will assume the starting shortstop duties in his absence. I don’t want to go into Peralta’s numbers on the season because he was never truly able to get into his rhythm but now he will be back at shortstop where he feels the most comfortable. General Manager John Mozeliak held onto Peralta even when I kept saying he should be traded, now it’s time for Peralta to either put up or shut up.

Jonathan Broxton

This one will come as a surprise to most people. Nobody thinks of the veteran right hander when it comes to struggling Cardinals. Broxton was once a dominate closer. He knows how to pitch, he knows what its like to be in a playoff race. He posted a 4.50 ERA during the month of July and holds a 3.92 ERA on the season. The Cardinals Bullpen is very thin right now. Trevor Rosenthal is now on the DL and wouldn’t help the Cardinals very much if he was healthy. Jordan Walden is not expected to return soon. Matt Harris is out for the season. Sam Tuivailala has not been able to succeed in the Majors this season. Don’t even get me started on Seth Maness. The list goes on and on but the bottom line is, if Broxton can solidify the 7th inning role, Kevin Siegrist can pitch the 8th and Seung hwan Oh can keep finishing games out, the Cardinals would be in great shape down the stretch.

Zach Duke

Duke was recently acquired by the Cardinals at the deadline. He was the only player acquired at the deadline. A trade deadline that included 18 trades on the deadline-day alone, the most since 1995. I want to stress that point because the Cardinals currently have many flaws. Their bullpen has been horrible, their starting pitching has been shaky to say the least, and their fielding has been horrible. Duke needs to help solidify that bullpen. Lucky for him, he’s the piece that they needed. He is a lefty and will be brought in to face lefties so Siegrist does not have to anymore and he can focus on pitching the 8th innings. He is a low risk high reward kind of guy, but only making one move at the deadline during a playoff race is a high risk move in itself.