5 Second-Half Keys to the St. Louis Cardinals Winning the NL Central

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5 Second-Half Keys to the St. Louis Cardinals Winning the NL Central
Harry How/Getty Images
The Cards hope Berkman will be a big second-half contributor.

It can't be said the Cardinals aren't holding up their end of the deal as they attempt to give their faithful fans a 12th World Series title in 2012.

After 86 games, the club has the same record they had last year at the same juncture—46-40.

The Cardinals concluded their first half of the schedule on a high note thanks to a two-out, two-run walk-off single by All-Star Rafael Furcal against Heath Bell of the Marlins on Sunday.

The hit bailed out Maikel Cleto and the Cards' beleaguered bullpen and allowed them to keep pace with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, who both won as well.

Looking up from third place at midseason, however, is not what Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak had in mind as they broke spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

Going into 2012, the Reds appeared to have less depth than the Cards and the Pirates, who teased last year but needed much more than All-Star Andrew McCutchen to be a serious threat.

Or so most thought.

According to the metrics, the Cardinals' National League-best run differential of +70 should give them a record of 50-36, which would place them first in the NL Central by a game and a half. But that, as they say, is why they play the games.

The Cardinals sport an NL-leading offense (.275 average, 426 runs scored) and sixth-best team ERA (3.91), but they clearly have other areas that need shoring up.

Here are the five most important keys for the Cardinals to have a successful second half.

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