(Baseball StL) -- How does a Cardinals team anchored by six All-Stars, deep in young pitching depth, and loaded with offense get primed for another postseason run?
As they begin the second half at Busch Stadium on Friday against the San Diego Padres, the Cards have a slim one game lead over the surging Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cincinnati Reds are five games off the pace.
While the Cardinals offense has four starters among the top 10 in batting in the National League, including League leader Yadier Molina (.341), what are the key question marks for a Redbirds team that’s looking for their first Central title since 2009?
Molina may be the N.L. MVP so far this season. However, the Cardinal catcher was slowed by inflammation in his right knee before the All-Star break. Matt Holliday is suffering from a pulled hamstring. Despite his All-Star first half, Carlos Beltran’s knees are also monitored closely by manager Mike Matheny.
The Cardinals have 69 games remaining on their schedule, with 24 of those contests to be played against the Pirates and Reds. A crucial stretch comes from August 26th to September 8th, when the Cards play 13 straight games against those two teams. Despite some road travel early in the second half, the Cards play 38 games at Busch Stadium.
A starting rotation that began the season on a roll, was soon slowed down by injuries and inconsistency. Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia spent time on the disabled list, while Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn experienced control problems over the last month. While Adam Wainwright continues to keep his name in the Cy Young Award conversation, Miller is making a run at the Rookie of the Year Award despite issues over his workload. Miller’s turn in the rotation was skipped over, before the All-Star Break to get him more rest.
Will the Cardinals get an offensive boost from David Freese (.271). Jon Jay (.250) and Pete Kozma (.233)? All three have experienced their share of struggles at the plate this season.