The last time I truly believed the Cardinals were in the playoff hunt must’ve been July 22nd after they took 3 of 4 from the Cubs, who were just days away from blowing it all up. That afternoon, Dylan Carlson became the youngest Cardinal to crush 3 extra base hits since Albert Pujols. It was pure bliss. We were only a game over .500 but it felt like we had momentum for once, after taking 2 of 3 from the Giants to open the second half that previous weekend. The Cards then traveled to Ohio to face Cincy and Cleveland, and came back home to take on the struggling Twins and Braves. Of course, after returning home, the Redbirds stood at… 53-55? Surely the season was over. Things were moving downhill at a tremendous speed.
Not so fast. Since the Braves completed the sweep at Busch on August 5th, the Cardinals are 8-1 and have jumped past the Mets and Phillies in the NL Wild Card standings, now sitting just 2 games behind the Reds and 4.5 games behind the Padres. How have the Cardinals made such a tremendous surge this month and how can they continue to make a miracle Postseason push in the final month and a half of the season?
Let’s start with how St. Louis got themselves into this situation. Every stat for every player will be across this 9 game stretch that has allowed the Cardinals to reenter the playoff picture. Since 8/6/21, the Cardinals have a team 131 wRC+ (excluding pitchers) and a team 3.94 SIERA, ranking 7th and 11th in the MLB respectively. They have been able to get offensive production out of guys like Lars Nootbaar (311 wRC+ since 8/6), Jose Rondon (196), and Edmundo Sosa (183). Albeit, these are small sample sizes, with a combined 40 PA between the three, but it’s been awesome to see the younger guys keep the line moving.
Then, of course, there’s our mashers. For months now, Cardinals fans have waited for Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to get hot at the same time, and we may finally be experiencing that. Nolan’s 171 wRC+ and Goldy’s 150 during this hot streak have really propelled the Cardinal offense to these victories, with Nolan blasting 3 home runs this past weekend in Kansas City. St. Louis needs these two to stay hot for pretty much the remainder of the season if they want to keep pace in the NLWC race.
The outfield, with the exception of the ice cold Harrison Bader, has also been outstanding these past couple of weeks. I mentioned how guys like Lars Nootbaar and Jose Rondon have stepped up when called upon and performed, but Dylan Carlson and Tyler O’Neill are still going incredibly strong. Carlson missed last weekend’s series in KC, but put together a 181 wRC+ from the 6th to the 12th. He continues to impress. Of course, Ty has been outstanding too, with a 153 wRC+ in this established time frame. If he and Carlson can stay hot, and if Bader can return to his July self or at least some semblance of it, we should be in a good spot.
Having Flaherty back is massive. He showed what a big impact he can make last Friday with 6 shutout innings. Having Waino, Flare, and maybe Mikolas going this week against the Brewers with your entire bullpen available is about as much as you can ask for.
Dare I say I’m optimistic about the Cardinals? Big surprise coming from CardsNetwork. I don’t know. This is absolutely the most excited and anxious I’ve been about Cardinals baseball since sometime in April. Goldy, Nolan, Ty, DC, Harry, Flare, Waino, Gio, Cabby… take us there. Take us to October.