Cardinals, Rangers may not pull through wild card-game
National League Wild-Card Game
I hope that everyone remembers the St. Louis Cardinals’ miraculous championship run last year, because it probably won’t happen again.
The Cardinals will play in Atlanta against the Braves this Friday at 4:07 pm in the National League wild-card game. The Cardinals only made the game due to the recent rule change that added a second wild-card team to both the American and National League.
It is true that the Cardinals have a very strong offense. In many important offensive categories, the Cardinals are among the leaders in Major League Baseball, including fifth in runs scored, fourth in team batting average, and first in on base percentage. The Braves rank seventeenth, twenty-first, and thirteenth in those categories, respectively.
However, the Cardinals are very inconsistent as a team. In the last seven games, leadoff hitter Jon Jay has done his job with a .360 batting average, but as a whole, the Cardinal power hitters have not done a satisfactory job of driving in runs. Though outfielder Carlos Beltran has a .353 average and two homeruns in his last seven games, first baseman Allen Craig, outfielder Matt Holliday, and particularly catcher Yadier Molina have failed to perform.
Their jobs will not get any easier when the Cardinals face Braves’ starter Kris Medlen, the National League Pitcher of the Month for both August and September, in the upcoming wild-card game. Medlen is 9-0 in his 12 starts on the year with a 0.97 earned run average (ERA). On top of that, the Braves have won the last 23 games Medlen started (extending back to 2009). This is an incredible new record in the Live Ball Era that passed Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell‘s spree with the New York Giants (1936-37) and Hall of Famer Whitey Ford‘s string with the New York Yankees (1950-53).
Though the Cardinals have a strong starter in Kyle Lohse, who is 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA on the year, the pitching matchup clearly favors the Braves. With an inconsistent Cardinal offense that has failed to come together on the field, the Braves should defeat the Cardinals in the National League wild-card game.
Of course, St. Louisans know that no one should ever count out the Cardinals. After all, anything can happen in one game with everything on the line.
Winner: Atlanta Braves
American League Wild-Card Game
The Baltimore Orioles, surprise wild card winner, will face off against the Texas Rangers, another surprise team that controlled the American League West until being bumped to a wild-card after losing their final game of the season against the Oakland Athletics.
The Baltimore Orioles lack the star power of other teams in its division, the American League East, but this year, it didn’t matter. The Orioles emerged from nowhere to claim the wild card spot after failing to wrest the East from the New York Yankees.
The Rangers, despite having been to the World Series the past two years, looked terrible while losing five of their last six games, two to the Los Angeles Angels and three in a row to the Oakland Athletics. Their unexpected losing streak lost them their division lead. Despite being in the top four spots in batting average, runs, on base percentage, and slugging percentage, the Rangers now appear sluggish as they reach the end of the season. They must rely on the hope that Yu Darvish can continue his impressive regular season performance, which included leading the Rangers in strikeouts and notching sixteen wins, in the upcoming game.
The playoffs don’t necessarily determine the best team of the season. Instead, they determine the best team for a mere four weeks. The Baltimore Orioles, who enter the playoffs on a 5-2 run, should streak past the Rangers on Friday.
Winner: Baltimore Orioles