St. Louis Cardinals: 3 Reasons Cardinals Will Make the Playoffs
The St. Louis Cardinals did not look like a playoff team in their last two series.
David Freese's go-ahead single in the 9th inning in Saturday's 10-9 victory helped end the Redbirds' four-game slide—one in which they were outscored 32-1.
Injuries on the ten-game road trip did not help the Cardinals. It has been reported that shortstop Rafael Furcal's season is over because of a tear of his ulnar collateral ligament (according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
Catcher Yadier Molina was banged up in a home-plate collision on August 28th against the Pirates. Molina played in three of four games in Washington, as the Redbirds hope to have him fresh for the final sprint.
Trailing the Cincinnati Reds by 9.5 games with only 28 games to go, it does not appear possible that the Cardinals can catch their rivals in the race for the NL Central crown.
However, here are three reasons why the Cardinals will make the playoffs.
Favorable Remaining Schedule
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
After a tough road trip, the Cardinals probably cannot wait to get back to St. Louis.
The Redbirds have struggled away from Busch Stadium this season, sporting a 32-36 road record. Good news for them, the remaining road schedule is favorable (three of four series against sub-.500 teams), along with their entire remaining slate.
Of the nine series left on the Cardinals' schedule, only three are against winning ball clubs—two of which are at home (Nationals and Reds).
The Los Angeles Dodgers (.5 GB in the wild card), on the other hand, have five of their remaining series against winning teams.
The Pirates are also chasing the Cardinals, as they sit only 1.5 games back in the wild card race. Seeking their first postseason appearance since 1992, Pittsburgh may have the easiest September schedule with 13 games remaining against the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros.
Nevertheless, the Cardinals control their destiny. Take care of business at home and perform well in a four-game set at the Dodgers, and the Redbirds will be back in the postseason.
More Room for Error
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
At this time last season, the Cardinals sat 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL wild card race.
It took an amazing comeback from the Redbirds, in addition to a colossal collapse by the Braves (8-17 record after 9/2/2011), to open up the road to a World Series title.
This year, the Cardinals are in a much better spot. While the Dodgers and Pirates are right on their heels, the Cardinals are the ones in the driver's seat in 2012.
An added wild card spot to the playoff picture should also help fans in Cardinals Nation sleep better at night.
The Braves will surely do everything in their power to prevent another fall off the mountainside.
Luckily for the Cardinals, they won't need one from the Braves to play more than 162 games this season.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Cardinals offense has been extremely inconsistent of late.
Before scoring 10 runs in a victory at Washington on Saturday, the Redbirds plated only five runs in their previous five games.
The return of Lance Berkman, if healthy, should add a big bat to the Cardinals' lineup.
Berkman's play has been sparse in 2012, appearing in only 28 games this season. A hero in the 2011 season, the "Big Puma" hasn't played in an MLB game since August 2nd.
It is unknown how effective Berkman will be down the stretch, as his injured knee presents major questions about his base-running ability and mobility in the field.
Nevertheless, inserting a player into the order who hit .301 with 32 home runs last season can only be a good thing.
According to Joe Stauss's article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Berkman has hinted that this may be his last go-round in the MLB. Expect the should-be Hall of Famer to go out with a bang.
The addition of top prospect Shelby Miller to the September roster should also aid the Redbirds.
Miller was extremely sharp in his last 10 minor-league starts, going 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA. The 21-year-old pitcher will help boost a bullpen that was burned out in the recent road trip, as they accounted for 36.1 innings of work.
Look for Miller to baffle hitters with his high-90s fastball and solid breaking ball.