The final postseason race went right down to the last day of the season. When the dust settled, the St. Louis Cardinals walked away with their 12th Central Division title.
Don't get it twisted, just because the St. Louis Cardinals were the last team to clinch a playoff spot, doesn't mean they aren't just as poised to win it all. The Cards were one of the hottest teams in the majors in the second half, and only took so long to claim a spot because they were battling with the Brewers who were one of the other best teams in the league in the past month and a half.
The Cardinals have a solid core of veteran guys that are used to being in big games that can help this team in the crunch time moments. They also don't have one superstar that they rely on more than anyone else. It's a full group effort from top to bottom, with the team scoring runs by committee on a consistent basis.
Where this team gets their wins is their pitching staff, lead by Cy Young contender, and second half, league-wide MVP, Jack Flaherty. Flaherty was absolutely dominant down the stretch, leading the league with a second half ERA of 0.91. His second half helped the team explode up the standings, and helped put his name into the conversation for NL Cy Young. He finished the season with a 2.75 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, and 231 strikeouts in 196.1 innings. He is a huge reason as to why the Cardinals looked unbeatable at points down the stretch.
The team was dealt a bit of a hit late in the season when Michael Wacha went down with a mild strain in his shoulder. The team's former ace will miss the entirety of the NLDS and will be taking it day by day to see if he will return for the NLCS. While he isn't the pitcher he used to be, losing a veteran like Wacha might hurt the Cards chances a little bit.
1. Dexter Fowler, RF
2. Tommy Edman, 2B
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Yadier Molina, C
6. Matt Carpenter, 3B
7. Paul De Jong, SS
8. Harrison Bader, CF
Kolten Wong, Jose Martinez, Matt Wieters, Tyler O'Neill, Jairo Munoz,
1. Jack Flaherty
2. Mike Mikolas
3. Adam Wainwright
4. Dakota Hudson
Carlos Martinez, Andrew Miller, John Gant, Geovanny Gallegos, John Brebbia, Tyler Webb, Ryan Helsley
What do they have to do to win?
Hope to god that Jack Flaherty can pitch every other game.
In all honesty, this team has a good bullpen so their starters don't need to do as much work as some. But everything has to go their way on offence if they want to be in games against some of the teams they're going to play along the way. It's going to be a tough run for St. Louis, but they have the playoff experience to surprise some people.