Why the Cards Have the Edge over the Reds and Pirates Heading into Final Month
Even with the disaster that was Adam Wainwright's latest start, St. Louis Cardinal fans have to feel pretty good about their team's chances to lock up the NL Central.
However, with the Pittsburgh Pirates enjoying their best season since 1992 and the Reds right in the thick of things again, the Cardinals will have their work cut out for them as the season winds down.
But with a number of positive things going the Cardinals' way, following are three reasons why they have the advantage over both the Pirates and Reds down the season stretch.
As has been mentioned so many times this season, the Cardinals are loaded with pitching talent.
They have had success this season with rookies such as Trevor Rosenthal (who pitched well in September last year), Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Michael Blazek and Michael Wacha among others.
The Cardinals have the ability to give a starter an extra day of rest with the versatility of Michael Wacha. They also will soon have Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez back on the roster to make spot starts as necessary.
That kind of flexibility is not a luxury that the Pirates or Reds enjoy at this point. While both of those teams will bring up youngsters to fill out their September rosters, neither has the pitching depth that the Cardinals have, which will prove to be a huge advantage to keep arms fresh in St. Louis.
The Cardinals hold a slight advantage over their two main NL Central rivals in terms of schedule in September.
While St. Louis starts out facing the Reds and the Pirates, the Cardinals then finish the month with 17 of their last 20 games against teams with losing records.
The Reds have the most difficult September. They start out with four games against the Cardinals and then have to face the Dodgers, baseball's best team in the second half this season. They wind up the season by playing six of their last nine games against the Pirates.
The Pirates have a decent schedule for September. They have three games against the Cardinals, starting Sept. 6, and then visit the Rangers, who lead the American League West. As mentioned above, the Bucs finish with six of their last nine games against the Reds.
With the Reds and Pirates beating up on each other to end the season, the Cardinals stand to benefit and, hopefully, lock up the NL Central crown.
The Cardinals have won the second-most World Series titles in MLB history with 11 world championships. This is a ball club that is used to winning year in and year out.
The Cardinals won their most recent World Series in 2011 and were one win away from having the chance to defend their title last season.
The Cardinals' clubhouse is filled with guys who have at least one World Series ring and a lot of those players have been in do-or-die situations down the stretch before, so know what it takes to win tight games.
While Pittsburgh is having a great season, it hasn't been able to post a record of .500 or better since 1992. The Pirates have stumbled as of late and now is the time to see how Pittsburgh responds to adversity. They will meet the Cardinals on Friday for a three-game set and meet up again with the Cards on Sept. 6.
Cincinnati has been to the postseason in two of the past three seasons, but hasn't been able to get past the first round. While the Reds have more experience than the Pirates, they still don't match up with what the Cardinals have to offer.
Winning is something that every professional athlete yearns to drink in, and the Cardinals have gotten to taste champagne quite often over the past few years.