5 Reasons Why the St. Louis Cardinals Will Win the NL Central
The MLB baseball season is a lot like a marriage.
If things are good, you are into it every night, you enjoy its company and you can’t wait to see it. The season flies by in a blur of euphoria.
But when things are bad, it is brutal. You avoid it at all costs. You find reasons to be in another room. It is LONG, each moment drawn out like the last horrible stages of a disease. You yell. You drink heavily.
This Cardinals season has been up and down. Right now, the Birds are like a manic depressive wife that you love dearly, but who occasionally puts a knife to your throat while you sleep.
This last series with the Brewers is a perfect example; just when I think it is time for a divorce, they draw me back in with a must-win, which—like a good session of makeup sex—has blinded me into thinking things could work out.
What can I say? I am a romantic. I believe this marriage can be saved. Maybe I am just in the post-coital afterglow of a solid win, but the Cardinals are going to win the NL Central, and here are five reasons why.
No. 5: Good Health (Knock on Wood)
They are finally healthy.
OK, not completely, as Matt Holliday just tweaked his back lifting weights and Nick Punto is still out, but Holliday will be back this weekend, meaning that with Allen Craig finally off the disabled list, the Cardinals have all of their big bats for the first time since, well, ever.
No. 4: Return of the Carp
Chris Carpenter is an ace again.
He is still giving up way too many hits, but he is also going deeper into games, which is something the Cardinals sorely need. Carpenter is 7-1 over his last 10 games and just pitched a game against the Brewers that symbolizes his season. He gave up 10 hits but only two runs scattered over eight innings.
He may not be the Carp of old, but he is getting the job done.
No. 3: Glove and Pen
Thankfully there's an improved bullpen and defense.
You have to give John Mozeliak credit (for now) for his ballsy midseason trade of Colby Rasmus. I, for one, do not think Rasmus is ever going to amount to anything, but it was still a big risk considering his age and salary.
So far the trade has settled the bullpen, given pitchers more defined roles and offered Tony La Russa a left-handed weapon. The jury is still out on Edwin Jackson.
The biggest move may have been getting Rafael Furcal, as now the Cards are no longer subject to Ryan Theriot’s brutal glove work at short. The defense and bullpen were huge weaknesses, and now they are better.
No. 2: Road Brew
The Brewers suck on the road.
This is really the only reason the Cardinals are still in this thing, as the Brewers' outstanding 41-15 home record has been balanced by their Cub-like 26-36 road record.
Both teams have 19 more road games. If the Brewers go 9-10 and the Cardinals something like 12-7, that could end up being the difference.
Road games, along with the six remaining head-to-head matchups, will determine the victor.
No. 1: The Mighty Pujols
Can you feel it? The Mighty Pujols is starting to heat up, and it is about time. And can we stop with all of this “Machine” nonsense?
When I hear that nickname, I think of the freak in the leather mask from the movie 8MM, and baseball has enough sadomasochism in it without bringing in whips, restraints and Nick Cage movies.
Albert Pujols has three bombs in the last week and has his average up to .284 for the season after a four-hit effort in the series finale with the Brewers.
After all of the early panic, it appears as though El Hombre will be right around his gaudy career averages once again. Pujols is simply the most consistently great hitter of all time, and if the Cardinals win the NL Central, he will be the main reason why.