The Cardinals welcome the Mets to Busch Stadium this week for a series that could alter the playoff race.

The Cardinals will host the New York Mets for a 3 game series starting on Tuesday for a very important matchup that has large playoff implications. While this is not a make or break series, it’s definitely a huge opportunity to help secure a playoff spot.

Coming into Monday, the Cardinals hold a 1.5 game lead over the Marlins, 3.5 game lead over the Pirates, and 4.5 game lead over the Mets for the 2nd NL Wild Card spot. With a series win this week, the Cardinals can extend their lead to 5.5 games over the Mets and put them completely out of contention with a sweep which would give them a 7.5 game lead.

On paper, the Mets look like the most threatening team for the Cardinals. They have excellent young pitching and recently acquired slugger Jay Bruce to compliment Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of their lineup.

As we Cardinals fans know all too well, just because you look good on paper, doesn’t mean it’ll translate into success. The Mets are sitting at .500 with a 62-62 record (as of 8/22) and have gone 15-21 since the All Star break. The Mets offense is ranked 11th in the NL in average, 13th in slugging and runs scored and last in on base percentage since the break. Their pitching normally carries their offense but it has not been to the level that is needed. They have posted a 4.18 ERA with a 1.31 WHIP. While these numbers are average, they need to be extraordinary to carry one of the worst offense in the league.

To make matters worse for the Mets, they’ve been plagued with injuries all season. Their ace, Matt Harvey, is out for the season along with starter Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler both still on the shelf. Their capitan, David Wright, is out for the year along with their 1st baseman, Lucas Duda. Even with these injuries, the Mets have been able to stay afloat but the Cardinals have an opportunity to give them a strong knockout punch this week.

Game 1 Preview

Jonathon Niese Vs. Jaime Garcia

Niese is making a spot start for the Mets. He was reacquired at the deadline from the Pittsburg Pirates after being traded to them last offseason for Neil Walker. Since the acquisition, he has posted a 9.28 ERA and gave up 4 runs in only 4.2 innings in his only start.

Garcia is having a down year after a tremendous 2015 campaign. He has pitched much better in August though going 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his 3 starts.

Game 2 Preview

Jacob deGrom Vs. Carlos Martinez

This will surely be an exciting pitchers duel. The 2014 rookie of the year is having another dominate season. He is carrying a 2.73 ERA and has been undoubtedly the ace of the staff with Harvey on the shelf.

Martinez has really made a name for himself as a young superstar in this league. He has had a rough August with a 5.00 ERA but looked strong in his last outing going 7 strong while only giving up 1 run.

Game 3 Preview

Robert Gsellmaan Vs Adam Wainwright

This one should be an exciting one with a lot of runs scored. It looks like the rookie Gsellman will make his debut on Thursday with the Mets with the injury to Matz. He is the Mets 14th ranked prospect (according to MLB.com) but has posted a 5.73 ERA with a 1-5 record in triple-A. There is no knowing how these prospects will translate to the big league level but Gsellman has the tools to be a good starter at the MLB level.

Wainwright has had an up and down season to say the least. There is truly no telling to what the 34 year old will bring to the table Thursday.

The Cardinals have a big opportunity to separate themselves from the pack this week. These games must be treated like playoff games if the Cardinals expect to win and ultimately secure themselves a place in September.