The Toronto Blue Jays are the talk of MLB right now, given the fact that they have leapfrogged the New York Yankees and now possess a playoff spot, but maybe it’s time to talk about the St. Louis Cardinals, too.
A few weeks ago, the Cardinals weren’t even in the rearview mirror of the teams fighting for the second Wild Card spot in the National League (the Los Angeles Dodgers have been in possession of the first for quite a while).
The San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds were the main actors in the race for that second Wild Card spot, with the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at striking distance, too.
But the Cardinals were there, slowly, but surely, gaining ground.
The Cardinals Have Been Surprisingly Good
St. Louis is currently second in the NL Central division, with a 76-69 record, well behind the 89-57 Milwaukee Brewers.
However, they have quietly been a noticeable improved team since the trade deadline.
That is certainly a surprising development.
We knew before the season that the Cardinals and Reds were pretty similar from a roster quality standpoint, but few people had St. Louis being better than San Diego.
Yet here we are.
Since the trade deadline, when St. Louis was 52-51, they are a solid 24-18.
One of the most shocking things about the Cardinals resurgence is that their ace, Jack Flaherty (3.08 ERA in 76 innings), has been out with injury for most of it.
However, he is already throwing bullpens and manager Mike Shildt hasn’t ruled him out for the year just yet.
But the former has allowed two earned runs or less in five straight outings, and the latter has also been mostly solid except for a game on September 1 in which he conceded seven earned runs in an inning of work.
Yes, IMO they have been far more effective for us than Oviedo or Gant was. Lester has been great recently (2.72 ERA) last 7 games and Happ had that one blowup vs Cincy but has been fine overall
— Tim (@TDOG2413) September 16, 2021
Those two, and the ageless Adam Wainwright (2.88 ERA in 190.1 innings), have led the rotation.
Tyler O’Neill’s breakout season, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt’s contributions, and Yadier Molina and Harrison Bader’s defense have also helped this surprising ball club currently hold a postseason spot.
The Blue Jays Are Legit
In the American League, the Blue Jays have been absolutely amazing as of late.
Toronto was 52-48 on July 30, the day of the trade deadline.
Now, the Blue Jays are 82-64 and holding the first Wild Card spot.
They have a 30-16 record since the deadline, one of the best in MLB and quite an accomplishment considering the division in which they play in.
The Blue Jays are the league’s best offense, with 5.3 runs scored per game and the best slugging percentage (.466).
They have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on a mission: win the MVP award, the Triple Crown, and take Toronto to the postseason.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. just hit his MLB-leading 45th homer of the season
That’s also one clear of his father’s single-season career high (44 homers with #Expos in 2000)
— Ben Raby (@BenRaby31) September 14, 2021
All of them are led by Guerrero, who is hitting .317 with 45 homers, 116 runs, and 103 RBI.
With that offense, they were a pitcher or two away from truly breaking through.
It looks like Berrios was the missing piece.
Both the Cardinals and Blue Jays will be in the thick of the race until the very end, with great odds of making it to October.