As we near the end of the 2017 season, the St. Louis Cardinals are right in the same position they were in last year. They are just a little bit behind of the wild card with a chance to make up some ground in the final games. The only difference is the Cardinals could make it based on the division crown. Nonetheless, the Cardinals are right in the playoff hunt.
At the end of the 2016 season, the Cardinals made a strong push for the playoffs. They won five of their last six games and were close the entire end of the season. The San Francisco Giants ended up beating them out for the last wild card spot (those pesky Giants, always getting in the Cardinals way).
However, let’s focus on this season. The Cardinals are currently 75-68, which is a major improvement from earlier in the season. Looking at what the Cardinals have for the rest of the season, they play almost identical schedules as the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. That will be fun to watch between those three teams. Since they play each other a lot, their series will prove pivotal and will have more implications by the day. The Brewers play the Cardinals in the last series of the season, and that potentially could be playing into or out of the playoff picture.
With the Cardinals in the playoff picture, they are also getting hot at the right time. In the last eleven games, the Cardinals are 9-2. Their schedule of course has not been against great teams, such as the Giants, San Diego Padres, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Coming down the stretch, the Cardinals are winning games they should be winning, which is a great sign compared to last year. They have two more series against the Cincinnati Reds, who are in last place in the division, so they need to continue their winning ways.
One of the keys to this Cardinal win streak is the depth on their roster. With Dexter Fowler being out for a significant period of time, Harrison Bader has stepped in and made a difference. He has played in 16 games and is batting .296, three home runs, and eight RBIs. This is a testament to the outfield depth from the Cardinals.
Players like Tommy Pham, Magneuris Sierra, Harrison Bader, and Jose Martinez have stepped in when they have been called upon by the Cardinals organization to step up. Martinez and Pham have been major league regulars for St. Louis. These players all started in the minors at the beginning of the season and have transitioned into the majors. Arguably, they have been the best players on the Cardinals this season, especially Tommy Pham.
Two key players for the Cardinals down the stretch are Tommy Pham and Yadier Molina. Pham is batting .306 with 19 home runs and 61 RBIs leading the team in batting average currently. For Yadier Molina, he is having his best statistical year of his career with 17 home runs and 72 RBIs. Molina is leading the team in RBIs as well. These two players have come out of nowhere and been the team leaders all season. For the Cardinals having a chance at the playoffs, these two need to lead the team and get hits in key situations.
For the pitching, the Cardinals traded Mike Leake a few weeks back and brought in Luke Weaver. This decision was the best the Cardinals have had all season. Weaver has been the best pitcher in the Cardinals staff with a 5-1 record and 2.16 ERA. Weaver coming in shows the great depth the Cardinals have in the starting pitching staff and they will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time. Players like Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright, and Carlos Martinez will make a formidable starting pitching staff that teams will have to work through, and the addition of Luke Weaver makes them even more of a threat in the postseason.
As it all stands right now, it is very possible the Cardinals make the playoffs. They are hot at the right time, starting pitching is hitting their stride, and the Cardinals finally have a solid rotation of hitters. This rotation is the best the Cardinals have had in the past few years, so they must capitalize on this opportunity. The key for the Cardinals is taking at least two out of three against the Brewers and Cubs in their series against them. That should give the Cardinals a great chance at winning the division. Keep an eye on those Brewers and Cubs series, as they will make or break the Cardinals playoff chances.
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