Saturday, August 16, 2008

Don't Give Up the Wild Card(s) Yet

I don't know who should be dancing on top of the dugouts at Busch Stadium alongside Fredbird—Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers—but one of those legendary horror movie bogeymen should definitely be the alternate mascot for the 2008 St. Louis Cardinals. By all accounts, the Redbirds should be dead and buried, but here we are with about six weeks left in the regular season, and the Cards are only two games behind Milwaukee in the Wild Card standings.

The recent success of Chris Perez in the "not the" closer role leaves the open spot in the rotation for the impending return of Adam Wainwright. If the recent successes of Joel Piñero and Todd Wellemeyer can be repeated—and if they can start scoring some runs for Kyle Lohse—it's conceivable that we can simply use Chris Carpenter in spot starts as a tune-up for the playoffs.

Regular Sandlot readers know I'm hardly a blind optimist—well, except when the Minnesota Vikings are involved (this is our year...really, this is it...I'm not even kidding!)—so let's look at the schedule:

The Cardinals will face the following teams: Cincinnati (54-69, eight games); Pittsburgh (55-67, five games); Atlanta (55-67, three games); Houston (62-60, three games); Florida (63-60, three games); Arizona (63-59, seven games); Milwaukee (70-53, two games); Chicago (75-47, six games). Out of those, 17 are road games (though the Cards have been a good road team this year), and 20 are at home. Throw out the Cubs and Milwaukee, and the rest of their opponents are currently a combined nine games over .500. Practically speaking, they need to win two out of three in series against the lesser teams, beat Milwaukee twice and split even with the Cubs. This would leave them around 24-13 for the rest of the season; 93-69 for the season.

Sound impossible? It's what it's going to take to overtake the Brewers and keep pace ahead of NY and Philly in the East or LA and Arizona in the West. What about the Brewers? Four against San Diego (47-75); six with Cincy (54-69); nine (!) against Pittsburgh (55-67); three against Houston (62-60); two more with LA (63-59); three with NY (66-56); four at Philly (65-57); two at St. Louis (69-56); and six with the Cubs (75-47).

St. Louis plays Houston, Florida, Arizona, Milwaukee and Chicago as teams with winning records. Milwaukee gets Houston, LA, NY and Philadelphia. They have 17 road games and 22 home games, an edge over the Cardinals. If we keep their current win percentage of .569, that figures a stretch run record of 22-17, or 92-70 for the season.

It's not going to be easy, but it is going to come down to the stretch. The biggest wrinkle is that Milwaukee's last six games are at home against Pittsburgh (done) and the Cubs, who may be resting everyone for the playoffs by then. The Cardinals have four at home vs. Arizona, who could still be fighting for the West Division title, then three at home with Cincinnati.

Every game counts from here on in. The Cardinals have to win two out of every three just to have a chance. It's improbable, but most of the paid experts in Butthole, CT picked the Cards to finish worse than San Francisco (51-70). As the immortal Lou Brown said in "Major League," "I'm for wasting sports writers' time." So am I. Let's play ball.

No comments: