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Can the Cardinals Really Catch the Brewers?

What would a Cardinals sweep of the Brewers REALLY mean for the Cards’ playoff hopes? Hmmm…it’s a long shot…and I mean a HUGE long shot…but not outside the realm of possibility. Let’s take a brief look at one example of what would have to happen to give the Cardinals a playoff spot in October.

Below is a break down of the upcoming September series facing each team after St. Louis leaves Milwaukee. For each match-up, I’ve listed the necessary series outcome for the Cards and Brewers to end the season tied at the top of the division. For example, if the match-up is “Brewers vs. Astros (2-1)”, that means the Brewers will win 2 and lose 1. Let’s have some fun!

Brewers vs. Astros (2-1)
Brewers vs. Phillies (2-2)
Brewers vs. Reds (1-2)
Brewers vs. Cubs (2-1)
Brewers vs. Marlins (1-2)
Brewers vs. Pirates (2-1)
Brewers vs. Rockies (1-1)
Brewers vs. Cardinals (0-3)

Cardinals vs. Reds (2-1)
Cardinals vs. Phillies (3-1)
Cardinals vs. Pirates (2-1)
Cardinals vs. Braves (2-1)
Cardinals vs. Mets (2-1)
Cardinals vs. Cubs (2-1)
Cardinals vs. Astros (3-0)
Cardinals vs. Brewers (3-0)

Final Record for the Remainder of the Season:  Brewers (11-13) / Cardinals (19-6)

Key Series Match-Ups (Brewers)

vs. Phillies: The Phillies rotation needs to show up in this series. The good news? The series is early enough in September that the Phillies “should” still have their foot on the gas with a “rack up wins” mentality. In addition, as a 4-game series, the Brewers have next to no hope of missing Halliday, Lee, and Oswalt. The bad news? The series is played in Milwaukee – where the Brewers have been “nigh invulnerable.” The best news? The Phillies don’t have to take 3 out of 4 or even win the series to help the Cardinals…they just have to split and finish 2-2. 

vs. Reds: As distasteful as it is for a Cardinal fan to root for the Reds, we would much appreciate a resurgent Reds team facing off against the Brew Crew and taking the series. The good news? It’s on the road where the Brewers have been much more vulnerable. The bad news? The Reds don’t exactly have much to play for other than pride. The best news? Pride is the name of the game in Cincy.

Key Series Match-Ups (Cardinals)

vs. Braves: This Atlanta team is good…real good. With an 8.5 game lead in the Wild Card standings, the Braves are almost assured a playoff spot in October. However, the Cardinals have an opportunity here to make up some ground on a possible, albeit unlikely, Wild Card leader in the standings. The good news? The games are played in Busch, so the home team should have a slight advantage. The bad news? The Braves are coming in early in September, so “coast to the playoffs” mode won’t be in gear quite yet. The best news? We only have to win the series 2-1 to stay “in plan”…no sweep necessary here.

vs. Phillies: Whew…this is a doozie. The Cardinals need to outright win this 4-game match-up 3 games to 1 to stay “in plan” for a 19-6 finish. That’s going to be tough against the Phillies Big 3. The good news? The Cardinals get to catch the Phillies in the second half of September…hopefully a time when Charlie Manuel will start shuffling his rotation to get starters extra rest and set them up for playoff games in October. The bad news? Not only are the games in Philadelphia, but they are the final 4 games of an 8-day road trip for the Cards…and we know how this St. Louis team has put together some downright ugly road trips in 2011. The best news? The Cards get an off day immediately before the Philly series. That should allow TLR to tweak his rotation a bit to line up his top guys against the Phillies’ offense.

Most Unlikely to Happen
For my money, I just have a hard time seeing the Cardinals leaving Philadelphia with a 3 games to 1 series victory. On the Brewers side…I just don’t see the Brew Crew laying down in September to finish with a losing record. Sure, they’re trending downwards compared to their red-hot August…but 11-13 is a stretch.

Head to Head Match-Up
Let’s face it…the Cardinals MUST sweep the Brewers this series AND the upcoming series in Busch. If they even lose 1 game, it’s a 2-game deficit in “the plan.” Already needing to go 19-6 and hoping the Brewers go 11-13 for the rest of September, the Cardinals just can’t afford to expect anymore from themselves or the Brew Crew…especially not an additional 2-game swing against teams with losing records. To have a chance at catching the Brewers in the NL Central, the Cardinals simply must not lose another game to the Milwaukee dome-dwellers.

Wrap-Up!

That’ll do it. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? Eh…not so much. I put the Cards’ chances at catching the Brewers at…hmmm…15%….and that’s being generous. But it all has to start with a victory today for a series sweep…in Milwaukee…against the 8.5 game leading Brewers…with a rookie pitcher on the mound for the Cardinals. And remember…just catching the Brewers means the Cards still need to win a 1-game “play-in” game after the regular season. I just don’t see it. But…you never know!

GO CARDS!!!

UPDATE: It should be noted…the Brewers went 21-7 in August…while the Cardinals went 15-13 in that same month (2 of those games were the wins by the Cards against the Brewers). So, for the Cards to go 19-6 and the Brewers to go 11-13, the teams simply need to swap roles for September. Certainly possible when you look at it that way…but still…

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