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Cards Surging Toward Wildcard Berth
Posted By Chaz Ingram On Sep 20 2011 @ 10:04 pm In St. Louis Cardinals | 4 Comments
For all intents and purposes the Milwaukee Brewers have locked up the NL Central. Now we focus our attention on the NL Wildcard race. Since August 25 St. Louis has gone 17-6 and shaved 8 games from Atlanta’s once 10.5 game lead. The Braves have gone 9-14 during the same time span and watched their lead in the wildcard race shrink to 2.5 games
Back on August 8, I wrote an article stating that clutch hitting and pitching would be key if the Cardinals were to mount a comeback of any kind to position themselves for a spot in the 2011 National League playoffs. I also pointed out in a separate article that relief pitching would be a key component for a Cardinal surge.
Well, all of the above have happened and the Cardinals find themselves in a great position to secure a spot in the MLB playoffs.
Albert Pujols – whose season was once described as “under par” by his standards - has caught fire recently. He is currently hitting .299 with 36 HR and 97 RBI. In the 23 games since August 25 he’s hitting .358 with 5 HR and 19 RBI. Pujols is not alone in the Cardinals recent power surge and has sparked his teammates. Lance Berkman has batted .342 over the last 23 games while hitting 2 HR and knocking in 11 runs. Left fielder Jon Jay has rebounded from a recent slump raising his batting average to .305. Overall the Cardinals are hitting .284 as a team so far in the month of September.
Cardinals pitching has been absolutely dominant over the past month. Chris Carpenter has indeed returned to his form of old and other have stepped up their game to put the Cardinals in the hunt for the NL wildcard spot.
The 2011 campaign began with Carpenter nearing the end of a five year $65 million dollar deal that he signed in 2006. He did not make a case for himself as he began the season with a 1-7 record. However, he recently signed a 2 year $21 million deal and has
gone 8-2 to bring his current record to 10-9. Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia have been as much a part of the Cardinals surge as anyone in the regular lineup. Lohse (one victory shy of his career best of 15) is 14-8 with a 3.47 ERA and has bounced back from mediocre 2009 and 2010 seasons in which he was a combined 10-19. Jaime Garcia has been steady this season and should equal or surpass his 2010 record of 13-8.
Starters have a combined record of 8-2 in the month of September with a 2.554 ERA. When you factor in the emergence of relief pitcher Jason Motte you have a solid overall pitching effort for the Cardinals and a load of confidence – even from the bullpen!
Considering their current level of play and the Atlanta Braves recent freefall, I like the Cardinals chances. Completing an historic comeback to represent the National League as the wildcard for the 2011 playoffs will not be easy but it is still possible.
Including tonight’s game against the Mets the Cardinals are a combined 17-10 against their remaining opponents (Mets, Cubs and Astros). The Braves are a combined 25-21 against their remaining opponents (Marlins, Nationals and Phillies). Stay tuned.
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