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St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Players Who Need to Step Up for a Wild-Card Push

Jacob BornContributor IIIAugust 22, 2012

St. Louis Cardinals: 5 Players Who Need to Step Up for a Wild-Card Push

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    Cardinals fans may be experiencing a case of déjà vu. 

    With only 41 games left in the season, the Cardinals are on the outside of the playoffs looking in. But, it may not be as bad as last season.

    For the second wild-card spot, the Cardinals are only 1.5 games back, with the Pittsburgh Pirates occupying the second spot and the San Francisco Giants only a half game back of them. The Redbirds are eight games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the division crown, and the Pirates are 6.5 games behind the Reds.

    For the wild-card spot, the Cards need to leapfrog two teams, but being less than two games behind is a big help. But the wild card is their only option, as an eight-game swing in favor of the Cardinals may be a stretch for the Central title. 

    For the Cardinals to reach the wild-card game, and maybe even the division crown, they need their underachieving players to step up and carry the team. With production form these five players, a wild-card berth won't seem so far-fetched. 

David Freese

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    Freese, for the first time in his career, has stayed relatively healthy throughout the season, and thus has been expected to produce. But his failure to produce and inability to sit on the bench has been costing the Cardinals some wins.

    In the marathon 19-inning game against the Pirates on Sunday, Freese went an astounding 0-for-8. In the month of August, Freese is 11-for-66, a .169 average, with only one home run and only seven RBI.

    Compare that to Freese's July, which saw him hit for a .458 average with a 1.187 OPS (on base plus slugging).

    During the month of July, the Cardinals were 15-10, and so far in the month of August, they are 10-8. While it might not be a direct correlation between Freese's production and the Cardinals winning a game, when a big-name player comes through, it can give the team the extra push to win the game. 

    With more production from their Game 6 hero, the Cardinals would close the gap on the wild-card race. 

Lance Lynn

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    Lance Lynn was the bright spot for the Cardinals and was the only Cardinal pitcher featured in the All-Star game. But, Lynn has struggled lately.

    In his first 13 starts, Lynn was 10-2 with only one no decision. Since then, Lynn has gone 3-3, with five no decisions. His ERA after his first 13 starts was 2.42. Currently, his ERA sits at a 3.73, which is 1.31 increase.  

    During the month of August, Lynn has had an ERA of 5.48, his second highest of the season behind his 5.67 in June. Since the All-Star game, Lynn has started seven games, but only has a record of 2-1.

    Lynn was a dominant force on the Cardinals' mound for the first half of the season, but now he has fallen back to earth. If Lynn can rekindle the fire that fueled him for the first half of the season, the Cardinals will be in very good shape for October.   

Jaime Garcia

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    Jaime Garcia was out of the Cardinals' lineup for 74 days until his return to the mound Sunday against the Pirates. His presence may have been diminished with the play of Joe Kelly, but it still hurt not having a lefty in the lineup.

    Garcia showed why he is valuable in his start against the Pirates. 

    Garcia, in his first game back, threw eight innings, allowing only five hits with 10 strikeouts. Garcia was the first lefty to hit double digits in strikeouts since Matt Moulder did it on May 9, 2005. He lowered his ERA from a ballooned 4.48 to a 4.00 ERA. 

    Garcia has a record of 3-4, and in those four losses, the Cardinals have scored two or less runs in three of them. Garcia also has five no decisions, and in those games, the Redbirds have scored three or less in three of them.

    Garcia's numbers look bad because of significant time spent injured and little run support. If Garcia continues to pitch like he has been for the remainder of the season, he will have done his part to give the Cards a spot in the postseason. 

Matt Holliday

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    Matt Holliday has become the face of the Cardinals offense after Albert Pujols left. Now, it is time for him to produce like one. 

    Holliday has had a relatively good season so far, with a .301 batting average, 23 home runs, and 81 RBI. But, over his last 10 games, he has not been playing well. Over that span, Holliday has only two home runs with five RBI, including an 0-7 game against the Pirates on Sunday, and his average dropped 19 points.

    August has not been any nicer to Holliday, as he has a .203 batting average, his lowest for the season. His .253 OBP and .645 OPS is also the lowest of the season.

    Holliday does not need to put up the home runs numbers that Pujols had as long as he gets on base. But recently, he has not been doing so. If Holliday can get on base and score some runs in the last stretch of the season, the Cardinals will be right in the mix of things.   

Marc Rzepczynski

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    Marc Rzepczynski, or "Scrabble" has he is called in St. Louis, was a key part in the bullpen last season for the Cardinals. But following his postseason success, Rzepczynski has had a rough year. 

    Rzepczynski is 1-3 on the season, with a 4.89 ERA. Rzepczynski was lights out in the month of July, allowing zero earned runs, worked 6.2 innings over 10 games, and only allowed three hits. In August, Rzepczynski has a 5.40 ERA in only five innings of work. But this is not his most surprising stat. 

    In five save opportunities, Rzepczynski has zero saves.

    However, his numbers are somewhat deceiving. Rzepczynski has yet to record a win or loss since the All-Star break, and his ERA is 2.89, compared to his 5.52 ERA before the All-Star break. 

    Last season, Rzepczynski was known for being cool under the pressure and getting the Cardinals out of tight situations. But this season, he has let the pressure get to him. If Rzepczynski can become the shutdown reliever he was for the Cardinals, they should be able to close out games and get those much-needed wins. 

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