The NL Central and the dog fight to make the postseason

Bradley Piros , Sports Editor

I asked it in my last column and I’ll ask it again, is it October yet? Last time out, I was pleading the case for the Blues to go back-to-back, but now I’m ready to talk about the “Birds on the Bat.”

That’s right, the St. Louis Cardinals are, as of writing this, 89-67 and three games ahead of the Brewers for first in the NL Central. They’re now seven ahead of the Cubs after sweeping them at Wrigley, clinching a postseason berth while doing so. The Birds have two three-game series left, one on the road at the Arizona Diamondbacks and the final regular season home series, once again against the Cubs.

A month ago, I was a little worried that the Cardinals were going to choke and let Milwaukee and Chicago have their way with us. Boy was I wrong, and I have never been so happier. The Cards played four of their best games of the season against the Cubs to win the series, one that felt very much like the playoffs. It might have well been a playoff series with how much was on the line.

I knock on wood though. The Brew Crew has been playing out of their minds trying to catch up. They have won 15 out of their last 17 games, including taking two games from the Cards to win the weekend series that began Friday, Sept. 13.

The Brewers no doubt have the easiest schedule from here on out. They wrapped up a series with the Pirates yesterday and will have the Reds and the Rockies, two teams that won’t be playing in October. The Cubs will have the Pirates, and the most anticipated series of the year against the Cards. I’ll be home for that weekend, but I’ll be spending my hard earned money to go watch a Blues preseason game against the Washington Capitals instead. As much as I’d love to go watch the Cardinals put the Cubs out of their misery and hopefully clinch the division, those tickets are about three-times the price of hockey tickets.

While this team isn’t coming back from last place in the league like another St. Louis team, they certainly weren’t looking like a lock in the playoffs until September started. The bullpen was a mess, hitting was inconsistent and the team was making silly mistakes. On the bright side, the team looked absolutely dialed in against the Cubs and seem poised to have another break out post season when everyone else counted them out; and here’s why.

Let’s start off with hitting. Off-season signing, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, had a rocky start to the season to say the least, but he slowly began to reach the numbers that everyone thought he would. While he isn’t the team’s next Albert Pujols, he still has 31 homers to his name in 560 plus at bats. Along with him, the team has two other players closing in on the 30-HR mark, shortstop Paul DeJong (28) and left fielder Marcel Ozuna (29). It’s not all about going deep, though. The team has an average OBS of .322 while holding their opponents to .313. The batting average for the team is .246 to create a solid batting lineup, but nothing spectacular.

Maybe batting hasn’t been the team’s key to success, but the pitching sure has been amazing down the stretch. Aside from a few hiccups, like Saturday’s game where the team walked a couple of runs in, the starting rotation have been pretty smooth. Jack Flaherty has been the best pitcher in the league the past 20 games. He leads the team with his 214 strikeouts and 2.96 ERA in 182 innings pitched. Dakota Hudson leads with his 16 wins in 23 games. Two of the other three starters, Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright have positive records while Michael Wacha is 6-7. Carlos Martinez leads the relief pitching with 23 saves, the next being Jordan Hicks with 14.

I could go a long time listing meaningless regular season stats, because once your in the postseason, those numbers really don’t matter. It’s just what you do from there on out.

Now that the Cards are in, all is well right? Yes and no. The good news is we’re in, but it would be smoothsailing if they held on to win the divsion. If they do, it’s looking like the matchup will be a first-round date with the Atlanta Braves and if they make it out of that, they’ll most likely have an even bigger task in the L.A. Dodgers.

Baseball has my second favorite playoffs next to hockey, and hopefully I get to cheer on my team throughout a deep run. While the drama of just getting into the playoffs is good on it’s own, nothing compares to primetime baseball in October.