By; Sammy Stava
For a team that’s currently four games back in the National League Central and a half game back of the second NL Wild Card with 37 games remaining in the regular season, every game, series, home stand, or road trip is going to be important. That might sound cliché, but it’s true for the 2018 St. Louis Cardinals (68-57) and this week will prove to be the biggest stretch of the season, as they prepare for a six-game west coast road trip. That begins Monday night, starting with three against the Dodgers, then three against the Rockies, which will greatly impact the Cardinals’ postseason hopes.
Since July 27th, the Cardinals have won seven consecutive series, going 17-6 in that span. Since Mike Shildt took over as interim manager, the Cardinals are 21-11, including 14-4 so far in the month of August, with all four of those losses coming by one run.
In those seven consecutive series wins, the Cardinals have beaten potential playoff teams, taking two out of three from the Cubs, three out of four from the Rockies, and just recently, two out of three from the Brewers. However, four of those series wins have come against teams hovering around .500, Pirates and Nationals (without having to face Max Scherzer), and the bottom feeders in the leagues (Marlins and Royals).
The Dodgers, meanwhile, surprisingly enough, would not be in the playoffs if the regular season ended today. At 67-58, Los Angeles has won three out of their last four and is coming off a series win over the Mariners in Seattle, but since the All-Star break when they acquired Manny Machado, the Dodgers are only 14-15. One would assume their run is still coming, though, which could happen at any moment, and against the Cardinals, that would be the perfect time for them to do so in such a pivotal series.
The Dodgers are 1.5 games back of the NL Wild Card (one game behind the Cardinals) and two games back of the D’Backs for the NL West.
The Rockies (68-56) are coming off a four-game sweep over the NL East leading Braves this weekend and are 8-2 in their last 10 games (against Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta). Add in that Coors Field is a very difficult place to play and the team is led by NL MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, Colorado is looking awfully dangerous right now.
The Rockies lead the Cardinals by a half game for the second NL Wild Card and are only a game behind the D’Backs for the NL West.
That goes to show that this upcoming road trip might just make or break the Cardinals season. As well as this team has played recently, one bad week might will put them further behind the Wild Card race entering September, but another good week would put them in excellent position to make a playoff push in the final month of the season.
And the Cardinals might have actually caught a break before the road trip has even started. Clayton Kershaw pitched earlier Sunday afternoon against the Mariners, so just like avoiding Max Scherzer in the Nationals series; they will also miss Kershaw in this upcoming series, something that this team needs to take advantage of.
For the pithing match ups, it’ll be:
Austin Gomber vs Alex Wood on Monday
Daniel Poncedeleon vs Hyun-Jin Ryu on Tuesday (Poncedeleon is taking Luke Weaver’s place in the starting rotation as Weaver has been moved to the bullpen)
Jack Flaherty vs Walker Buehler on Wednesday