The Cardinals schedule over the final two months provides them with a great chance to move up in the NL Wild Card race. This isn’t in the traditional sense that you might be thinking of, which is having many games against bad teams and thus giving you a chance to bank wins. Rather, the schedule provides a ton of head-to-head match-ups against the teams that surround you — and mostly lead you — in the standings. Obviously, the team must play well in order to capitalize on these opportunities. But, when you have several games to make up and not much time to do it, being able to control your own fate instead of relying on other teams to beat your competitors is the ideal situation.
It’s also a situation where you can sink like a rock if you don’t play well, but let’s stay optimistic.
Currently, there are 9 teams separated by 7 games in the NL Wild Card. The Cardinals are obviously one of those nine. Two of the other 8 are Arizona and LA, tied for the NL West lead. One team must win that division. Two more teams will get into the Wild Card Game, meaning 3 of the 9 teams make the postseason. The Cardinals will play 7 of the other 8 contenders over the next two months.
Fresh off winning 3 of 4 in a series with fellow Wild Card contender, Colorado, let’s take a look at the ground the Cardinals need to cover and how many head-to-head games they’ll have to help themselves.
Milwaukee Brewers (63-49)
Separation: 5.5 Games Ahead
Head-to-Head: 6 Games (8/17-8/19, 9/24-9/26)
Los Angeles Dodgers (61-49)
Separation: 4.5 Games Ahead
Head-to-Head: 7 Games (8/20-8/22, 9/13-9/16)
Atlanta Braves (58-47)
Separation: 4 Games Ahead
Head-to-Head: 3 Games (9/17-9/19)
Arizona Diamondbacks (60-50)
Separation: 3.5 Games Ahead
Head-to-Head: 0 Games
Colorado Rockies (58-50)
Separation: 3 Games Ahead
Head-to-Head: 3 Games (8/24-8/26)
Pittsburgh Pirates (56-53)
Head-to-Head: 9 Games (8/3-8/5, 8/28-8/30, 9/10-9/12)
St. Louis Cardinals (56-53)
Washington Nationals (55-53)
Separation: .5 Games Behind
Head-to-Head: 7 Games (8/13-8/16, 9/3-9/5)
San Francisco Giants (56-54)
Separation: .5 Games Behind
Head-to-Head: 3 Games (9/21-9/23)
In the 15 remaining games that do not pit the Cardinals against an NL Wild Card contender, only three will feature an opponent with a winning record, a series against the Cubs to close out the season. The other twelve games will feature losing teams: Miami, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Detroit, the best of which are the Reds with a current record of 48-60.
I can’t say whether the team will play well enough against this tough schedule to make a playoff push, the next hot streak will be the first of 2018. But if there is a run in these suddenly youthful Redbirds, they head-to-head, against the right teams, to make it happen.
Thanks for reading.