By: Sammy Stava
Heading into arguably their toughest and biggest road trip of the season against Los Angeles and Colorado, the Cardinals’ momentum under interim manager Mike Shildt simply just hasn’t stopped. Winners of five out of six from the west coast swing, the Cardinals swept the Dodgers and took two out of three from the Rockies to extend their series winning streak to nine, making a statement that they’re for real when it comes it legitimate postseason contenders.
Matt Carpenter has continued his NL MVP candidate push, the bullpen still hasn’t regressed since the makeover, and the Cardinals keep playing a beautiful brand of baseball under Shildt. If these three difference making results stay the same for the rest of the season, not only will this team play their way into the postseason, they also might become a tough out.
Currently 15 games over .500 at 73-58, the Cardinals have a half game lead over the Brewers for the top National League Wild Card spot (1.5 game lead over the Rockies for the final) and are only four games back of the Cubs for the top spot in the NL Central. With four games remaining in August, they have a 19-5 record this month, with four of the five losses coming by one run. Since Mike Shildt took over as interim manager, the Cardinals are 26-12, and they haven’t lost back-to-back games since July 22nd-23rd, when they were .500 at 50-50 (they’ve gone 23-8 since).
With 31 games remaining in the regular season, the Cardinals will play 18 games against teams that are currently under .500. Their next 15 games start tomorrow night with three vs Pirates, three vs Reds, three at Nationals, three at Tigers, then three again vs Pirates. Then 13 of their final 16 games are much more challenging, starting with four vs Dodgers, three at Braves, (three vs Giants), three vs Brewers, and three at Cubs.
If the Cardinals can take advantage of a pretty manageable schedule and do some serious damage against these teams in their next 15 games, they’ll have the perfect opportunity to create some separation in the Wild Card race, and perhaps give them even a better chance at winning the division for the stretch run. The Cardinals still have a lot of work to do to make the postseason, but with the way things are going right now, this team will definitely be playing some meaningful baseball come September, which is all you can ask for after what seemed to be a lost season.