Madison Sundling, Staff Writer
You would not know it from the lingering summer heat, but fall is just around the corner. For some, falling leaves means it’s time to get excited about pumpkin spice lattes, caramel covered apples, and, most of all, Halloween. But for those still suffering from baseball fever, it means it’s time to get excited for postseason baseball.
Beware though: The fever is still contagious in the fall as Cardinals’ fans avidly check stats, watch games, and buzz about the team’s performance. After the former manager, Mike Matheny, was fired and the Cardinals’ current manager Mike Shildt took over their record soared from 47-46 to 78-62, increasing their winning percentage from .505 to .557. To help these numbers happen, the Cardinals recently crusaded on a 10-game winning streak. To put this success in perspective, the longest winning streak for the Cardinals sits at 14, a record set in 1935. However, fans may have shed a tear or two when Sunday’s game against the Reds ended that winning streak. As if it didn’t sting enough, this put the Cardinals a half game behind the Brewers for the number two Wild Card spot.
For those who don’t live, breath and sleep baseball, don’t panic. Here’s a quick explanation of how the Wild Card works. Major League Baseball is split into two leagues, the American League and the National League. Within these two leagues are three divisions: Central, East, and West. At the end of the regular season, there are three division leaders and two teams clenching the Wild Card within their league. These two Wild Card teams will play each other in one playoff game as a preliminary to get in the National League Division Series. Then they will play in the National League Championship Series and ultimately the World Series. The first Wild Card holder gains home field advantage over the other. The Wild Card spots are a big deal; it can make or break a team. It gives 5 out of 15 teams in a league an opportunity to play into the postseason.
So far, the Cardinals are in a good position, but that spot must be maintained. The St. Louis team has produced well offensively. Specifically, infielder Matthew Carpenter’s offensive production has caught the eye of many. MLB recently declared him one of the National League Central’s “Most Indispensable Players”, even calling his offense “dangerous”.
Cardinals’ columnist Matthew Leach goes on to say, “Take away Carpenter, and St. Louis’ offense almost certainly grinds to a halt.”
His claims stand to reason. The fan favorite has a on-base percentage of .389, followed by a staggering slugging percentage of .568. That being said, the current defense is nothing to scoff at. In center field, speedy and agile Harrison Bader, outfielder, has had some jaw dropping plays and catches. The kid fits right in with the competitive and driven Cards. Additionally, with Adam Wainwright, pitcher, and Michael Wacha, pitcher, just coming off the disabled list and hopefully Yadier Molina, catcher, trailing behind them, reinforcement is on the way.
There has been much analysis over the Cardinal’s highs and lows this season. Maybe it was the management shakeup that jump-started success or repeated clutch plays and consistent offense that put the Cardinals in Wild Card territory.
But, if you ask Carpenter, a Cardinal, or any St. Louis baseball insider, their answer might be “It’s Gotta be the Salsa!”