June 15, 2024

The St. Louis Cardinals are firmly back in the playoff race following a hot streak over the past two weeks. The team has won 10 of its last 13 games, including a 7-1 record during a homestand against three teams with winning records. This impressive run has revitalized the Cardinals’ season.

Hot Streak Buoys Cardinals Season

Just two weeks ago, the Cardinals languished in last place in the NL Central, trailing by four and a half games for the second wild-card spot. Now, they’re just one game behind for second place in their division and a mere half-game shy of the wild card. The turnaround is remarkable. Their struggling offense suddenly came alive, marking the most significant factor in their resurgence.

Reflecting on this shift, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak remarked on KMOX Sunday, “Looking back over the past two months, the most notable change for us has been the transformation of our offense. We’ve witnessed a Jekyll and Hyde scenario where our lineup has alternated between struggles and surges. Considering the caliber of players we have, we always believed they were capable of producing the numbers they’re accustomed to. During the tough times when runs were scarce, it was challenging. However, the past two weeks have been exhilarating to watch, and we hope to maintain this momentum and continue to build on it.”

Cardinals Bats Got Hot

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In the last 15 days, the Cardinals have led the National League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Their slash line of .284/.361/.466 during this period represents a significant improvement over their season averages of .234/.290/.340. Just two weeks ago, the Cardinals’ offense was a major disappointment, but now it has propelled them to within one game of a .500 record.

Following the Cardinals’ sweep of the Orioles on May 23, Manager Oliver Marmol commented, “Players are trusting their teammates behind them, taking walks when necessary, and not overexerting themselves. That’s been the key. I think players are relaxing, being themselves, and not trying to do too much.”

Two Key Contributors

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A significant factor in the team’s recent success has been the emergence of second-year outfielder Alec Burleson. The decision to send down former top prospect Jordan Walker was partly aimed at providing Burleson with more playing time, a move that has paid off for the team. Burleson currently boasts the second-highest batting average in baseball over the past two weeks, hitting .422, trailing only Aaron Judge. Additionally, he ranks eighth in the league for OPS with 1.057 during this period. Despite only driving in four runs during this stretch, Burleson has been instrumental in setting up opportunities for the rest of the Cardinals lineup.

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Paul Goldschmidt, who struggled at the plate during the first month and a half of the season, has seen a notable improvement in his performance over the past two weeks. Previously batting below .200 and striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances, Goldschmidt’s numbers have started to turn around. During the win streak, he’s maintained a batting average of .308 and a slugging percentage of .596. Goldschmidt has also tripled his home run tally for the season in the past two weeks, hitting four home runs in the last 12 games, compared to just two prior to this point in the season.

Hot Streak Changes The Season

By the middle of May, Cardinals fans were feeling restless, with Manager Marmol and President Mozeliak facing increasing pressure. The team seemed destined for another year of shedding assets at the trade deadline.

However, the recent winning streak appears to have alleviated some of the pressure on the job security of Cardinals management and coaching staff. Yet, it has also shifted the team’s approach to roster construction. The primary concern now is securing a fifth starter for the rotation. With Steven Matz sidelined due to injury and some disappointing performances from potential replacements, the Cardinals find themselves with a solid rotation but one spot short.

“We need to keep a close eye on waiver wire activity and explore potential trades,” Mozeliak stated in an interview with KMOX sports on Sunday. “We recognize that we can’t rely solely on bullpen games or fill the gap with options we’re not fully confident in for the next four months. Addressing this need is a priority for us moving forward.”

Resilient Cards

The significant injury to Willson Contreras at the start of May initially appeared to pose a major setback for the team, as he was their most reliable hitter at the time. However, Contreras remains hopeful about his return before the All-Star Break, and the team anticipates the imminent comeback of utility man Tommy Edman to the lineup within the next few weeks. Despite the optimism surrounding the team’s improving health, the Cardinals should consider adding another bat to bolster their lineup if they intend to remain competitive in the playoff race.

“It’s impressive to see how we’re competing right now and putting runs on the board, especially considering we’re missing our top hitter with Contreras out,” remarked Cardinals shortstop Masyn Winn after the team’s sweep of the Baltimore Orioles last week. “I can only imagine how daunting it will be for the pitchers we face once he’s back in the lineup.”

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