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Hot Streak Buoys Cardinals Season

The St. Louis Cardinals are squarely back in the playoff hunt after a hot streak over the past two weeks. The team has won 10 out of its last 13 games, including a home stand where it went 7-1 against three teams with winning records. This stretch has buoyed the Cardinals’ season.

Hot Streak Buoys Cardinals Season

Two weeks ago, the Cardinals were in last place in the NL Central and four and a half games out of the second wild-card spot. They are one game out of second place in their division. As well as just a half-game out of the wild card. The Cardinals were in last place in the NL Central two weeks ago. The most significant reason for their turnaround was the sudden awakening of their struggling offense.

“When I look back at the last two months of the season, I think the biggest difference for us is the Jekel and Hyde of our offense,” said Cardinals president of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak on KMOX Sunday. “When you look at the types of players we have in this lineup, you believe over time that they will be able to put the numbers up that they are traditionally doing. There’s no doubt that when they weren’t scoring, it was tough. But the last two weeks have been fun to watch, and hopefully, we can keep that going and build on it.”

Cardinals Bats Got Hot

Over the past 15 days, the Cardinals have the best batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in the National League. Their .284/.361/. 466 slash line over the past two weeks has been a major improvement on their season averages of .234/.290/.340. Two weeks ago, the Cardinals’ offense was one of the biggest disappointments in baseball; now, it’s propelled them to one game below .500.

“They’re just trusting the guy behind them,” said Cardinals Manager Olliver Marmol after the Cardinals sweep of the Orioles on May 23. “Guys are taking their walks when needed, not trying to do too much. That’s been the biggest thing. I think guys are taking a deep breath, just being themselves, and not trying to do more than that.”

Two Key Contributors

Part of the team’s success has been the emergence of second-year outfielder Alec Burleson. Part of the calculus for sending down former top prospect Jordan Walker was to get Burleson more at-bats, and he has rewarded the team. Burleson has the second-highest batting average in baseball behind only Aaron Judge over the past two weeks at .422. He’s also eighth in the league for OPS at 1.057 in that stretch. While he hasn’t driven in many runs in that span — just four RBI — he’s been setting up the rest of the Cardinals lineup and moving batters along.

Paul Goldschmidt was a black hole in the lineup for the first month and a half of the Cardinals season. He was sucking up the key at-bats with a sub.200 batting average and striking out nearly a third of his plate appearances; over the past two weeks, that has started to change. He’s been batting .308 and slugging .596 over the win streak. Goldschmidt has tripled his home runs on the season in the past two weeks. He has hit four in the past 12 games after just knocking two out of the park all season leading up to this point.

Hot Streak Changes The Season

Halfway through May, the Cardinals fanbase was very antsy. Marmol and Mozeliak were on the hot seat. It looked like the Cardinals were heading to a second straight year of selling off pieces at the trade deadline.

While the winning stretch appears to have steadied the job security of Cardinals management and coaches, it’s changed the team’s potential approach to roster construction. The glaring need the Cardinals have now is a fifth starter in their rotation. The injury to Steven Matz and some disappointing starts to pitchers that could have filled that role have left the team with a good starting rotation minus one.

“We’re going to have to pay attention to what’s happening on waiver wires as well as kicking the tires on some potential trades,” Mozeliak told KMOX sports on Sunday. “Because certainly we know we can’t go the next four months with just trying to do bullpen games or just backfilling with something we’re not 100 percent confident in. We know there’s a need there and that’s something we’re going to try to focus with.”

Resilient Cards

The devastating injury to Willson Contreras at the beginning of May once looked like it would sink the team. He was their most consistent hitter at the time. Contreras is optimistic he’ll be back before the All-Star Break, and the team is still looking forward to utility man Tommy Edman’s return to the lineup in the next few weeks. Even with the hope the team will continue to get healthier, the Cardinals should be looking for another bat to supplement their lineup if the team stays in the playoff race much longer.

“It’s pretty cool to see that we’re battling like we are right now and scoring runs, and we don’t even have our best hitter with [Contreras] down,” said Cardinals shortstop Masyn Winn after the Cardinals swept the Baltimore Orioles last week. “I can’t imagine once he gets back, it’s going to be scary for these pitchers that we’re facing.”

Main Photo Credits: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports


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