The St. Louis Cardinals, fresh off of a 7-2 homestand, hit the road for a weekend set with the Cincinnati Reds looking to solidify the team’s hold on second place and continue its charge for first. For the Reds’ part, this is a very important series; at 21-24 and 5.5 games out, the Reds must make some progress this weekend or risk being left behind in what is rapidly appearing to be a two team race between the Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Cardinals with the most at stake, in terms of confidence and figuring out their place on the club, are SP Jaime Garcia and 2B Kolten Wong. Garcia historically has struggled on the road, and were he able to put up a solid start against a solid Reds lineup it would go a long way towards cementing his role in the rotation. Wong has had a good run since his recall, but for any young player the road is a different animal.
The Cardinals managed to climb into serious division contention with a homestand that the fans were looking for. Using a combination of suffocating pitching and finally timely hitting, the team found a groove and looks much more like what was expected when it broke camp. It is imperative the team now carry this over into Cincinnati and close out the last weekend in May either in first, or right there, as historically the Memorial Day mark has been very predictive in determining final standings.
The Cardinals face mounting roster questions with regards to a talented AAA outfield and the under-producing big club version. But so long as the pitching holds up, even a modicum of offense with keep those questions on the back burner, allowing more time for veterans to regain normal standards of excellence. Have the Cardinals finally turned the corner? Perhaps, but running the Reds off the road will go a long way to clearing a a lane to race into first.