Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cardinals Clinch NL Central

I just watched the St. Louis Cardinals clinch the NL Central Division with a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Denver. Adam Wainwright pitched eight strong innings and struck out eleven batters. Back up catcher Jason LaRue (filling in for an injured Yadier Molina) broke a 3-3 tie in the 7th with a solo homerun. Ryan Ludwick added some insurance in the 9th with a two run shot. Ryan Franklin came on and earned the save.

It is the first time the Cards have reached the post-season since 2006 when they went on to win the World Series. It is also the eighth team in fourteen seasons with Tony LaRussa at the helm the Cardinals have reached the post-season (1996, 2000-2002, 2004-2006.) It is also their seventh NL Central Division title (they won the NL Wild Card in 2001.)

The Cardinals jumped out of the gate going 19-8 in April but would play around .500 ball from May through July. It was in August when the Cardinals began to run away with the division with a 20-6 record.

If things remain as they are it would appear the Cardinals will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. I think the Cardinals starting rotation is better than the Dodgers especially with Wainwright and Chris Carpenter as arguably the two best starting pitchers in the NL. 15-game winner Joel Pineiro is no slouch either. However, Franklin has struggled in the bullpen of late and his struggles could offset the effectiveness of their starting pitching against Dodger bats.

But then again things might not remain as they are. With the Cardinals victory over Colorado tonight, the Rockies now only have a 2½ game lead in the NL Wild Card over the surging Atlanta Braves. The Braves have won five in a row and 14 of their last 17 games. If the Braves overcome the Rockies then the Cardinals would play the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS. If you think the Cardinals have bullpen problems they have nothing on the Phillies.

Suffice it to say, I cannot wait for the post-season to begin.

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