Last night marked the beginning of a crucial four-game series against the Washington Nationals, the holders of the second-best record in the majors. With series against a few sub-.500 teams coming after (the Mets, the Brewers, and the Padres), it is crucial that the Cards make a strong showing in this series, and here’s why: To date, the Cards have gone 20-27 against teams in the NL with above a .500 winning percentage, and 43-26 against NL teams with a sub-.500 record. While the .623 winning percentage against the latter is impressive, demonstrating that the Cards know how to take care of business when they need to by consistently beating the sub-par teams in the NL, the .425 winning percentage against the former is worrisome. In the playoffs, the Cards are only going to be facing teams with winning records. A .425 winning percentage against those teams just won’t cut it, and points to the Cards not being able to win series against the best teams in their league. To put things in perspective, the other above-.500 NL teams (the Nationals, Reds, Pirates, Dodgers, Giants, and Braves) have gone 18-12, 24-23, 17-20, 21-14, 18-19, and 19-25, respectively, against NL teams with winning records, all better winning percentages than the Cards have.

The Bottom Line: The Cards have demonstrated an ability to dominate sub-.500 teams all year, but have struggled a bit against teams with winning records in the NL. A strong finish in the last 3 games of this series against the Nationals will help quell doubts about their ability to bring it when facing the best in their league, especially with the playoffs on the horizon.