There was a time several years ago when the St. Louis Cardinals were pestering post-season baseball with their very existence. The Cardinals were never a sexy team, certainly not a big market team.
But in 2004, 2006, and also every year from 2011 to 2014, the Cards played for the National League pennant in the NLCS. The team won the World Series in 2006, and again in 2011. Which by today’s sports news standards is a generation ago. So long ago that Albert Pujols was still wearing Cardinal red.
But so too were Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, an All-Star catcher/pitcher duo still playing for St. Louis. This season, with Molina turning 39 just after the All-Star break, and Wainwright turning 40 a few weeks later, the Redbirds have two very prominent reminders of when this franchise were championship contenders.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Wainwright, who has 17 wins as I wrote this column, is having a comeback season, his best since he was in his early 30s. The Georgia-native is arguably the most popular pitcher in franchise history after the legendary Bob Gibson. But, given his performance this year after entering his fifth decade, he may surpass Gibby in that regard. Despite his advanced age by pitching terms, Wainwright ranks second in the NL in innings, and his three complete games are the most in baseball this season. He may not be on the Tom Brady diet, but Adam is doing something “Wain-right.”
Thanks to an eight-game winning streak entering the series against Milwaukee that starts on Monday, the Cards have leaped past the Reds and Padres and hold a grip on the second wild card spot in the Senior Circuit. They have a lot of people to thank for that, but Wainwright and the ancient Molina deserve some of the credit, defying Old Man River. Or is it Father Time? It’s one of those grey-bearded fellas.
Could the Cardinals Beat the Dodgers in a Wild Card Playoff?
In a perfect world, the Dodgers would not have to play one game to advance into the Division Series round of MLB’s playoffs. They might be the best team in baseball, even if the Giants are a few games in front of them. The Dodgers are so talented that they have a future Hall of Famer on their bench as a pinch-hitter, and they have two All-Stars that they platoon. They have so many aces up their sleeve, that if they were in Vegas, a bouncer would be tossing them out the backdoor of a poker room.
The Dodgers are likely going to face the Cardinals in the wild card game, assuming St. Louis holds onto the spot. The sportsbooks don’t offer odds on wild card spots, but the Cards have slipped ahead of the Reds and Padres for the pennant, according to DraftKings and FanDuel.
Baseball isn’t football, where usually the far superior team beats the lesser team. And that’s what we’d have with a Dodgers/Cardinals matchup: the Dodgers are much, much better.
Consider run differential:
St. Louis +3
LA Dodgers +249
The Dodgers run differential is the best in baseball, better even than the Giants. The LA offense is loaded, they field the ball very well, their bullpen is deep, and they have not one, but four aces to line up for a playoff series: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias. Yikes.
But a wild card game is a one-game clash where anything can happen, and in baseball funny things can happen. A pitcher can have a bad game, the defense can stumble, or a pitcher can have everything going for him, in which case a Dodger lineup could be rendered non-threatening.
The Dodgers would be heavy favorites to win a wild card (which they would host), but that’s not a guarantee. Plus, we have the rivalry factor: the Cardinals and Dodgers hate each other. It’s a rivalry that goes way back to the Great Depression. The Cards have beaten the Dodgers in October before: in both 2012 and 2013, the Redbirds eliminated LA from the playoffs.
Odds to Win Pennant (World Series)
|Dodgers||+145 (+280)||+145 (+270)||+150 (+270)|
|Brewers||+280 (+700)||+340 (+900)||+350 (+850)|
|Giants||+425 (+1000)||+333 (+800)||+310 (+750)|
|Braves||+650 (+1400)||+600 (+1300)||+650 (+1600)|
|Phillies||+1600 (+4000)||+2500 (+5000)||+1800 (+4900)|
|Cardinals||+2000 (+5000)||+3000 (+6600)||+3100 (+6000)|
I think the Giants are being overrated here by every sportsbook: they don’t have the depth of pitching needed to win tight games in the playoffs. The Brewers and Cardinals are the best “longshot” bets if you want to take your money off the favored Dodgers.