It’s easy to get up in arms after the Cardinals lost five of their last six and fell out of first place on their most recent road trip, but as their reshuffled deck settles in, the Cardinals are in great shape heading into the last two months of the season.
Adding Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa upgrades the offense to above average status. Because they’ve carried thirteen pitchers for much of the season, the bullpen is more rested than most, and the schedule works in the Cardinals favor.
While the Redbirds are the only N.L. Central team at .500 or better on the road, their 27 remaining road games are far and away the fewest in the division. Chicago (21-27, 30-18 at home) has 33 games left on the road, and 33 at home. Houston (22-23 on the road, 28-25 at home) has 36 road games remaining, and just 28 at home. Milwaukee (24-25 on the road, 25-24 at home) has 32 each left road and home.
In reading those stats, you may have noticed that the Cardinals have far fewer games left than everyone else. In the remaining nine weeks of the season, they have a day off in each one. There will be numerous occasions for Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan to skip the fifth spot in the rotation, and keep Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright on regular rest.
While the Cards have nine days off in nine weeks, the Cubs have 4/4, the Astros have 6/6, and the Brewers have 5/5. The toll on the pitching staffs of the other teams in the division will be far greater than it will be on the Cardinal staff.
Finally, the Cards have thirteen games left vs. contenders, seven against L.A. and three each vs. Florida and Colorado. The Redbirds, thankfully, are done with Philadelphia for the year.
Chicago has fifteen left vs. contenders, four each at Colorado, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and three at home vs. Philadelphia. For Houston, it’s seventeen vs. contenders…hosting San Francisco, Florida and Philadelphia for three, and going to Florida for four and Philly for three. The Brewers go to L.A. for three and Colorado for two, while hostong San Francisco for three and Philadelphia for four. It should be added that Milwaukee has eight left against hapless Washington.
All in all, pending deals by the opposition, the schedule favors the Cardinals. And best of all for them…there’s so many games in the division that they’ll control their own destiny in September. At the beginning of the season, isn’t that all we can ask for? And, we’ll get it.