The St. Louis Cardinals are just two games back in the NL Central and have the most important part of their season coming up. Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds begins a stretch where the Cardinals face rival NL Central teams in 30 of 39 games.
Sitting just three games back from the division leading Milwaukee Brewers and currently holding the top wild card spot in the National League, the Cardinals will certainly make or break their season with games against the Brewers, Pirates, and Reds.
The Cardinals will play the Reds ten more times before the season ends, and may be able to feast on a struggling Cincinnati team. The Reds activated second baseman Brandon Phillips and hope to get first baseman Joey Votto back soon. Both will be big additions to finish out the season, adding some pop to an offense ranking towards the bottom of the majors, but may be returning too late as the Reds sit 4.5 games back from a playoff spot.
The Pirates sit just 1.5 games back from a wild card spot and will pose a threat to the Cardinals for the rest of the season. The Cardinals face the Pirates six more times this season, the second series preceding a series with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Pirates have faltered as of late, but are just getting healthy thanks to the activation of pitchers Garret Cole and Francisco Liriano. Liriano has dominated the Cardinal bats and the Pirates could pose a huge threat to the Cardinals by the time the two teams square off.
St. Louis will play the Milwaukee Brewers seven more times this season, with the final set coming in mid-September. The September series will likely give a definitive answer of who will come out of the NL Central this season. The Brewers built a three game cushion on the Cardinals thanks to an impressive three-game sweep of the LA Dodgers that included wins over Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke.
The Cardinals are 7-5 against the Brewers as of now and have a record 27-19 verse the NL Central. If St. Louis is able to play at that same clip from here on out, the Cardinals should maintain a playoff spot and might even overtake the Brewers for the division lead.
With the resurgence of Carlos Martinez in the minors, Michael Wacha making great progress, and Yadier Molina on pace to beat the initial timetable for his recovery, the Cardinals seem primed to make a late season run.