After the San Diego Padres finished up a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday, St. Louis dropped about as low as they can go. The defending World Series champions have looked awful over their last 15 games and their 4-11 record reflects how bad things have been.
Some people may say that the Cardinals have looked flat and tired over the last two weeks, but the problem is much worse than that. The Cardinals are not getting timely hits, their pitching is not stepping up and striking out hitters in key situations, and their defense has been terrible. Everything that could go wrong has for the Cardinals over these past two weeks, and it is time for this team to buckle down and put a stop to it.
Things have been especially frustrating though for the Cardinals organization and their fans over this dreadful span because of the talent on this team. St. Louis is first in baseball in on-base percentage, third in batting average, fourth in runs scored and ninth in slugging percentage. The talent is all here on the St. Louis roster, but it has sure picked a bad time to not show up for the Cardinals over these last two weeks.
This weekend in Los Angeles though, the Cardinals have a chance to make up for their abysmal play over the last two weeks. All they need to do is bury the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend and pull away with the final wild-card spot. Obviously, this is easier said than done, because the Dodgers will have the same mindset coming into the four-game series this weekend.
The key for St. Louis is getting off to fast starts. Do not wait around and let the Dodgers strike and take the lead; but instead, each player for the Cardinals needs to have quality at-bats throughout the game: Do not swing at bad pitches, make the pitcher work and get on base.
Will the Cardinals make the playoffs?
In terms of pitching and defense, the Cardinals also need to go back to the fundamentals. Pitchers cannot fall behind in the count to hitters, they must get ahead in the count and make them chase pitches and defend the plate. Defensively, St. Louis needs to hustle to balls and make the easy outs.
This all may sound very simplistic, but these are the things that win baseball games. When everything is going wrong for a team, they need to go back and execute the basic fundamentals of the game.
After this four-game series the Cardinals have six games against the Houston Astros and three against the Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers will face off with the top two teams in the National League when they travel to Washington and Cincinnati to face the Nationals and Reds respectively.
After this weekend things only get harder for the Dodgers, and they only get easier for the Cardinals. If the Cardinals can get back on track by playing fundamentally sound baseball and take care of business against Los Angeles this weekend, they could be well on their way to returning to the postseason in October to defend their World Series title.