For a time this weekend, I thought the Cards really were done. My father has often pointed out in basketball where a team gets down 20 or so points, makes a big run, but if they don’t actually take the lead somewhere along the way, they tend to fade and give back a lot of their gains. I was afraid Saturday evening that was going to be the story of the 2007 Cardinals.
It was a tough few days for 70ATB favorites, as Anthony Reyes again had a rough inning and then Kip Wells self-destructed. A two-game losing streak, one of which was coming against the kind of good team the Cardinals have to start winning against, and they were 4 games out and looking bad.
Then they go out and get down 3-0 to Tim Hudson. Horton and Shannon were discussing on the radio that Hudson had won his last 76 games staked to a three run lead. Shannon said, “Gotta end sometime!” I really thought that was hometown optimism speaking, but apparently, it was a little prophetic as the Cards scored 5 in that inning, won the game, and cut a game off the Cubs’ lead.
After that rally on Saturday, it’d been really disappointing if they’d lost a game with their current ace starting. Wainwright continued to be very impressive, the bats scored enough, and both of the teams in front of the Cards fell. So, starting the last week of August, it’s:
St. Louis 2.0
According to Baseball Prospectus, the Cards have a 19% chance of making the playoffs. Just three weeks ago, that was down around 3%
Today is the final day off for the Cardinals in 2007, as they now have 35 games in 34 days. Though that’s a daunting task, it’s not quite as bad as you might think.
First off, the rosters expand Saturday, so that will help with the fatigue factor. Mark Mulder is looking sharp in his minor league rehab, though he’s only thrown in Single A so far. He should get another start probably Friday, then be activated soon after. Having a fresh arm like his in the rotation should be helpful, especially with all the games coming up.
So let’s look at that schedule. The Cards head off to Houston for a three game set there before returning to Busch for games against the Reds and Pirates. In fact, the NL Central comprises most of the remainder of the games (28 of the 35). The Cardinals have had success against their division mates this year, playing over .500 ball against them. In fact, in comparison to the other divisions, they’ve dominated the Central, going 30-22 against those teams. For comparison, the Cubs are just 27-26 and the Brewers 28-27.
The Cardinals also don’t draw too many strong games. The next 10 games are against teams under .500. In fact, based on the standings as of today, only 15 of the 35 games are against teams at .500 or over, and 8 of those are against the Cubs and the Brewers, who barely qualify. The others are three games in Arizona, three games hosting Philadelphia, and the makeup game at Shea Stadium.
The games are pretty evenly split between home and away. The Cards are a solid 34-29 at home (though obviously a reverse of 29-35 on the road).
As for the other teams, Chicago has a similar focus on the NL Central remaining, only facing the Dodgers and Florida outside of the division. The Brewers probably have the roughest road, facing Atlanta on the road and San Diego at home amongst the Pirates, Astros, and Reds.
Milwaukee and Chicago start off against each other tomorrow night, so if the Cardinals continue to play winning ball, they’ll make up ground against someone. The schedule is in their favor to do just that.