After winning their third straight series and closing out a six game road trip at 4-2, the St. Louis Cardinals head back home for a seven game home-stand with four games against Atlanta and three games with Cincinnati.
With 36 games remaining in the regular season, the pennant chase is really heating up as teams start to scoreboard watch. Cardinals have 22 home games left and 14 on the road (36-23 at home and 37-30 on the road).
This upcoming seven game home-stand is a part of a key 17 game stretch in where the Cardinals will face all playoff contending teams starting out with four games against Atlanta (77-49) who lead by a ridiculous 15 games in the NL East ahead of second place Washington.
13 games against the NL Central is apart of this tough stretch as after then Cardinals play four with the Braves, they will have 13 games in a row against the Pirates and the Reds (three vs Cincinnati, three at Pittsburgh, four at Cincinnati, then three vs Pittsburgh). St. Louis is 13-12 against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati combined (5-8 vs Pirates; 8-4 vs Reds). The Cardinals sit at one game back behind the Pirates in the NL Central and 1.5 games ahead for the first NL Wild Card spot over the Reds while Cincinnati is in third place, 2.5 games back in the NL Central race.
However, after this stretch is over, St. Louis will finish out the regular season with 19 games, all against teams that are under .500 right now. The Cardinals are 50-24 against teams under .500 this season.
Winning four out of their last five and seven out of their last 10, the Cardinals will still be facing questions as this 17 game stretch looms.
How is their starting pitching? – Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook have been the main concern with this starting pitching rotation with inconsistency. Lynn fell to 13-7 in the 6-3loss Tuesday night against the Brewers, allowing five runs in the Bottom of the 4th, it’s the third consecutive start that Lynn has allowed more than three runs in a same inning. Lynn is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA this August.
Westbrook was dealt with the no decision in the 8-6 win yesterday going 4.2 IP. After starting with a 7-0 lead, Milwaukee was back in scoring five unanswered runs. Walks have been an issue with Westbrook, allowing a walk in the first inning in each of his last five starts. Westbrook is 0-3 with a 10.29 ERA in August, having lost four out his last five starts.
Shelby Miller has also gone through some struggles, going 1-2 in his last five starts. You have to wonder if this rookie is capable and strong enough for the stretch run.
Adam Wainwright and Joe Kelly haven’t been an issue with the starting rotation at all as this past road trip Wainwright earned his 14th win of the season in a 6-1 victory against the Cubs, tying him for the league in the National League. Meanwhile, Joe Kelly has been a surprising fifth starter stopper which he is 3-0 in his last four starts, while posting a 3-0 record and a 1.99 ERA in August.
We all know that hitting is not an issue with this club right now with Yadier Molina returning from the 15-Day DL, batting 10-27 (.370) with two home runs, five RBIs, and five doubles. Cardinals are 5-1 in their last six games when Molina is in the starting lineup following his DL stint. Jon Jay has also been a surprise in August batting .351 (27-77) with two home runs and leading the club with 17 RBIs this month. Allen Craig keeps on hitting with 90 RBIs on the season, third in the National League and 10 behind Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt. Lead-off hitter Matt Carpenter still leads all of the Major Leagues with 41 doubles and 48 multi-hit games.
It is looking more and more likely that all three teams in the National League Central will make the postseason at this point of the season, but you have to wonder if the Cardinals have all the pieces together to win the NL Central and avoid that nerve-racking one game Wild Card, which they won last year.
Joe Kelly (4-3, 3.01 ERA) takes the hill tonight in Game 1 of a four game series against Paul Maholm (9-9, 4.41 ERA). First pitch tonight at 7:15 p.m. CT.