Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Don't Sleep on the Phillies and Brewers

              Can't Count Out a Team With These Pitchers On It

The Cardinals are hanging on to the second wild card spot for now despite their recent struggles. In their last 4 games, the Cardinals are 4-10. It's looking less likely that the Cardinals can catch the Braves for the first wild card and homefield advantage. Sometimes, their offense has been shut down. Other times, the Cardinals pitching or defense has let them down. The Cardinals will head to Los Angeles this weekend to play a crucial four game series against the Dodgers. The Dodgers are just one game back from the second wild card, but they have stumbled recently. They are 5-10 in their last 15 games, despite adding a ton of talent in the last couple of months. They were flying high earlier in the year before they added Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Brandon League, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez.

The Pirates have also faded since winning a 19 inning game against the Redbirds. They are 5-15 since, but are only 2.5 games back from the Cardinals. The Cardinals are looking more like the 2010 version lately than the 2011 version that came on strong in September. That been said, in 2006 the Cardinals played terribly in September and backed into the playoffs with only 83 wins. They went on to win the World Series that year. However, just because the Dodgers and Pirates are playing badly doesn't guarantee a postseason spot. There is 20 games left to go and a couple other teams have re-emerged into the playoff picture.

Last season, the Phillies and Brewers had the best records in the National League with the Phillies winning 102 games and the Brewers winning 96. The Diamondbacks were also a playoff team as well. All three teams are creeping back into the race. The Phillies got back to the .500 mark with last night's win against the Marlins. They are now only 4 games back of the Cards and are 13-4 in their last 17 games. The Brewers have also clawed their way back to a .500 record. They are also at 71-71 and are 4 games back of the Cardinals. The Diamondbacks are one game back of the Phils and Brew Crew.

Stangely, after unloading Jim Thome, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Joe Blanton, the Phillies have taken off. They are 34-21 in the second half after a dissapointing first half. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard missed half the season, and Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee spent some time on the DL. Their offense isn't what it used to be, but with a pitching staff that includes Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels, you cannot count them out.

The Brewers might be kicking themselves for unloading Zack Greinke at the deadline. They were well under .500 at the break, and it didn't look like they were going to turn it around. They have been playing good baseball lately, going 13-4 in their last 17 games. Their offense has still been pretty good this year, but their bullpen has been terrible. John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez have both fallen off tremendously from good seasons last year.

While the Brewers and Phillies have some holes, they shouldn't be counted out yet. No one expected the Cardinals to make the playoffs last year at this time. In late August, they were ten games back of the Braves for the wild card, and came back to catch them on the season's final game. The 2007 Rockies rallied back in September and went on a tear to catch the Padres on the season's final game. They beat the Padres in a one game playoff, and ended up in the World Series that year. The 2004 Astros overcame six teams for the wild card after being below .500 in late July. It's not impossible, and the Cardinals are going to have to play better baseball to make the postseason.

   Matt Holliday's game winning run in the 2007 wild card tiebreaker

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