MLB Playoffs 2013: The St. Louis Cardinals Face Tough Challenges
The St. Louis Cardinals, having won their division for the seventh time in the past 14 years, head into the playoffs facing some fierce competition. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves have all taken very different routes to this year's postseason, but it is the Los Angeles Dodgers that pose the biggest threat to another World Series in St. Louis.
The Dodgers Were Built for This
This season has proven that the Dodgers were built to run deep into the postseason. They were early favorites to win their division. Adding Zack Greinke to their rotation this year was a calculated move to both get them to the playoffs and make them that much stronger once they got there. The duo of Greinke and Clayton Kershaw gives the Dodgers a distinct advantage in the short series that lies ahead.
The Cardinals Are Beat Up
The Cardinals are headed into the playoffs with a team built to play close games and manufacture runs, which is much different from how the season started. Carlos Beltran has slowed in recent weeks, Matt Holliday has missed playing time and the run machine that is Allen Craig has now been ruled out of the opening round, and possibly the entire postseason, due to an injured foot.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch took a look at the Allen Craig situation, including the diagnosis that the team has provided, earlier this week on StlToday.com:
Switching to a more cautious approach for an injury that, if pushed, could collapse Allen Craig’s left foot and cost him playing time next season, the Cardinals announced their cleanup hitter will not play in the division series and won’t be available until later in October, if at all.
Ultimately, the team is going to look to take advantage of mistakes made by the opposing pitchers, and the Dodgers simply do not make that many mistakes.
Close Games Are Not the Cardinals' Strength
Defeating the Dodgers will require the Cardinals to perform well in close ballgames, which has not been the team's strong point this year. The Cardinals have 20 wins in 36 games this season decided by one run, while they have won 35 of 52 games that were decided by five runs or more.
Don't Count the Cards Out
While the Dodgers provide the biggest challenge for the Cardinals, the team should not be counted out. They are a strong and deep club that has overcome many challenges to be the best team in the National League this season.
The Cards, meanwhile, are less publicized, but more tested at this late-season, postseason line of work. They lead the NL in runs scored, even though they are 13th in home runs and 15th in stolen bases. What the Redbirds are, in their lineup and in general, is relentless. They are hitting with runners in scoring position at an historic level.
The team is poised for a substantial postseason run. Should they get past the Dodgers, the Cardinals may be unstoppable.
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