By Kevin Reynolds (@deckacards)
If you haven’t noticed, the Cardinals are playing better of late. Much better, actually.
After taking 2-of-3 in Arizona – a series that could have easily ended in a sweep of one of the toughest teams in the NL in their own park if not for Seung-hwan Oh‘s best impression of a floater pitch – the Redbirds came home to beat the hoppin’-good Nationals 8-to-1. Now, they’re positioned to put up a fight during a pre-All-Star-game homestand that includes the Mets and Marlins.
They now sit just 3.5 games back of first place and 1.5 back of the second-place-assumed-to-be-first-place Cubs.
Yeah, things are about to get interesting.
They could get even interesting-er.
St. Louis’ putrid performance to start the season put them trailing in the Wild Card race by double-digits. Not any more. Any hopelessly optimistic fan checking the standings knows that the Cardinals are now just 8.5 games back of the Wild Card…and that’s not even the best part.
The two teams scratching and clawing for relevance ahead them aren’t exactly instilling fear these days.
The Cubs, stuck in a free-fall of epic proportions, sit behind Colorado and Arizona – the two teams currently holding the WC postseason tickets – followed closely by the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves, people.
This is a team so lowly, so committed to a rebuild – Matt Adams is turning them around. And they’re moving Freddie Freeman to third base to work around, that’s right, Matt Adams. They’re also a team unlikely to try and win this year for a long-shot WC berth. They’re just too committed to the rebuilding effort in Georgia for that.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, could quickly find themselves within striking distance of an all-too-wild Wild Card spot.
Yes, the Rockies, D-backs, Cubs, and Braves would all have to fail miserably in the second half for it to happen. But is that really all that farfetched an idea? Arizona has lost three straight and are still dealing with the aftereffects of the Dave Stewart era. And Colorado is 2-and-8 in their last 10 games (and let’s be honest…can you ever REALLY trust a team playing in Coors Field anyway?).
But here’s one thing you can bet on…
If St. Louis continues to play like they have the last week, Mozeliak and his new GM-bot Michael Girsch will be on the hunt for a piece or two to spur this team to the postseason in the second half. And we already know they have the pitching depth with Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty to push.
Look, I know the Wild Card is a crazy shot at this point. The Cardinals’ best chance to play in October is by way of the NL Central Division title. But the way the Rockies and others have played lately, and considering the competition ahead of us, the Wild Card just got a whole lot less crazy, and that’s a nice development when the Brewers are giving no indication of giving up and going home.
Don’t be surprised if the All-Star break arrives with the Redbirds not only the favorites to overtake Milwaukee in the NLC but also a charging team on the move and within five or so games of an NL Wild Card spot.
Why does all that matter?
Things are about to get crazy.
Kevin Reynolds has covered the Cardinals for About.com, Yahoo! Sports, and various other entities. He’s been writing and podcasting about the Cardinals since 2004 at Stl Cards ‘N Stuff. Follow him and chat baseball on Twitter (@deckacards), and check him out on Facebook.
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