Starting Friday, the Oakland Athletics will host a three-game interleague set against the most dynamic, well-rounded team in the National League. The St. Louis Cardinals head to the East Bay carrying the best record in all of baseball (tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates). The A’s will have their hands full trying to keep up with a Cardinals team that has carried over its regular-season success from last season when they earned the second-best record in the NL.
But how are the Cardinals doing so well in 2013? How are they baseball’s best team? That’s easy. Everything. You name it, St. Louis is good at it, if not the best at it. Offense, defense, pitching, managing—the Cards are at the top in nearly every facet of the game.
Which will present a challenging test for the Athletics, who have had an up-and-down past couple of weeks. After their June 13th victory over the New York Yankees, the A’s were a season-high 14 games over .500 and sitting two games ahead of the Texas Rangers atop the American League West standings. Since then, Oakland is 5-7 and has fallen into a virtual tie for first with Texas. After sweeping the Reds, the A’s face the tough task of beating a Cardinals team that sports a ridiculous 26-14 record away from home. It will not be easy.
However, if the Athletics are going to win this series, they are catching St. Louis at the right time. By their own lofty standards, the Cards are struggling of late having lost eight of their past 14 games. Now is as good a time as any to take down these birds.
Here are five keys to the Athletics’ series against the St. Louis Cardinals.