Last season the St. Louis Cardinals failed to reach the playoffs and have not missed consecutive postseasons in 10 years, so if they come up short, it will be a big disappointment for the team and its fans.
The Cardinals have not looked that good all season losing 9 of 12 to start the season. The lineup changed frequently with the infield rotation not settling in well.
High-profile free agent Dexter Fowler had problems early, as did Stephen Piscotty. At the break, the Cardinals were 43-45.
Fast forward to mid-September and the Cardinals are in the hunt for a playoff berth. Since August 30, the Cardinals are 11-4 to raise their record to 77-70 and sit 4 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central and just 3 ½ behind the Colorado Rockies for the second and final wildcard spot.
For many it is surprising the Cardinals have remained in the playoff picture this long, but a weak NL Central this season has much to do with that as does the second half drop of the Rockies.
The Cardinals have the remaining part of their weekend series with the Cubs, and end their regular season with a stretch of seven games at home against the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
The team has been led of late by a few surprising faces including Tommy Pham. He started the season in the minors, but since being called up and finding a spot on a regular basis in the lineup, Pham has led the team with a 5.0 WAR, which is No. 16 in baseball for all position players, is the first player for the Cardinals with 20 steals and 20 home runs since Reggie Sanders did so in 2004, and has played well on defense in the outfield.
Another player who has been a pleasant surprise is Jose Martinez. At 28, he had only 18 plate appearances in his career in the major entering spring training.
During the winter, he changed his swing and created a better angle to launch the ball of the bat giving him fewer grounders and more fly balls. The result was a roster spot to start the season and his current slash line is .314/.379/.546. He is batting .356 since the All-Star break.
With just 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Cardinals will soon start feeling the pressure of late season playoffs races but it appears they are ready for the challenge and could sneak up on both the Brewers and Cubs or grabbing a wildcard spot from the Rockies.