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Matt Carpenter, Mike Shildt & the Cardinals are surging toward the postseason

A red-hot August has St. Louis atop the NL Wild Card heap

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals are flying high, and after taking two of three against the Rockies at Coors Field after a sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles, St. Louis has greatly strengthened their hold on a potential National League playoff spot.

The Cardinals are 19-5 in August, the best record in the majors. Since July 15 St. Louis is 26-12, the best record in the National League. That date was important not just because it was the day before the All-Star break, but rather was when Mike Matheny was fired after a lackluster start to the season, with Mike Shildt promoted from bench coach to interim manager.

When Matheny was fired on July 15 the Cardinals’ odds to reach the postseason, per FanGraphs, was 24.1%. Now they are at 63%.

“He deserves a lot of credit because he’s putting players in positions to succeed. It’s worked,” Cardinals chariman Bill DeWitt told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I’m not being critical of the prior regime because they’ve been here a number of years. We said at the time a fresh voice can inject new life into a club and that’s what has happened in my view.”

Shildt has helped guide a young pitching staff, with several rookies playing key roles under his watch.

Austin Gomber allowed two runs (just one earned) in six innings at Coors Field on Sunday, lowering his ERA to just 2.79. Gomber started 2018 in the minors, as did fellow rotation mates Jack Flaherty and John Gant, plus reliever Dakota Hudson.

That foursome has a 2.57 ERA in 91 innings in August.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies
Matt Carpenter leads the National League with 34 home runs and 38 doubles.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

“Shildt’s been really good at letting us play our own game and letting us play the way we want to play. That’s the biggest thing,” St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong said after sweeping the Dodgers, per the Associated Press. “We have so many different personalities and different guys in this clubhouse. You just have to allow people to be themselves and eventually people are going to mesh together.”

Matt Carpenter tied a franchise record with four doubles on Sunday, giving him 38 on the season to lead the National League. He also leads in home runs (34), OPS+ (159) and wRC+ (154), and ranks second in slugging percentage (.579) and OPS (.964).

His homemade salsa-fueled run is even more remarkable considering Carpenter was hitting just .140/.286/.272 as late as May 15, with three home runs in 35 games.

Since Shildt took over, Carpenter is hitting .296/.413/.704 in 38 games. During that time the Cardinals as a team led the NL in scoring (5.13 runs per game) and run differential (+57).

The Cardinals saw eight teams ahead of them in the National League standings when Matheny was fired, but after Sunday’s series win in Denver, the Cardinals now own the second-best record in the NL. St. Louis occupies the top Wild Card position at the moment, but the National League remains packed, with six teams fighting for three playoff spots separated by just three games in the standings.

National League standings

Spot Team W-L Pct GB
Spot Team W-L Pct GB
NL Central Cubs 76-53 0.589 ---
NL East Braves 73-57 0.562
NL West Diamondbacks 72-58 0.554
Wild Card Cardinals 73-58 0.557
Wild Card Brewers 73-59 0.553 ---
Rockies 71-59 0.546 1
Phillies 70-60 0.538 2
Dodgers 70-61 0.534
through August 26, 2018