Is it time to call the St. Louis Cardinals as legit World Series contenders? They enter this week with the longest winning streak in baseball at seven in a row and are pulling away from the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central. The Cards have started out August with a 15-3 record, which is their best mark in August since 1944. They are +2800 to win the Fall Classic.Let’s look at the preview for your MLB bets.
World Series Odds After Week 18 Of The Season
Hot hitting from Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Lars Nootbaar, and Albert Pujols have carried the Cards this month. Their new pitching acquisitions, starters Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery, have proven to be some solid pickups, as they’ve helped stabilize what was once an unbalanced rotation.
Even though future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols could finish the season just a few home runs shy of becoming just the fourth player ever to hit 700 home runs in his career, the Cardinals star said he still plans to retire after this season regardless of how many home runs he hits.
“I’m still going to retire, no matter whether I end up hitting 693, 696, 700, whatever,” Pujols told USA Today Sports. “I don’t get caught up in numbers. If you were going to tell me 22 years ago that I would be this close, I would have told you that you’re freakin’ crazy. My career has been amazing.”
Pujols continues to rewrite the record books becoming the first player in MLB history age 42 or older to have a four-hit game with two home runs. Pujols’ 64th career multi-HR game moved him past Willie Mays for 5th all-time with former Cardinal Mark McGwire in 4th place with 67 multi-HR games.
When the Cardinals re-signed Pujols in late March, few imagined that the transaction would amount to much more than a victory lap and a nice bit of closure for a 42-year-old all-time great. Though he hit well in limited duty in April, Pujols struggled to such a great extent for the next two months that a midseason retirement wouldn’t have been a surprise. Over the past six weeks, however, he’s been one of the hottest hitters in baseball.
Since August 10, he’s hit .556/.586/1.259 in 29 PA, with two four-hit games and two two-hit games among his six starts. Since the All-Star break, he’s hit .449/.500/.939 (a major league-best 298 wRC+) with seven homers.
The Cardinals have a 95.5 percent chance of advancing to the postseason and an 84.4 percent chance to win the division, according to FanGraphs. Their odds to win the World Series, meanwhile, are only at 3.3 percent – which seem surprisingly low. It’s the fifth best odds in the NL and the eighth best in baseball.
St. Louis could get a major boost soon with the return of ace pitcher Jack Flaherty. He’s on a minor-league rehab assignment currently. Flaherty, who started the 2021 season 9-1 before being hampered by oblique and shoulder injuries, is hoping to make it back to the Cardinals’ rotation this season before the playoffs. He is expected to make one more rehab start — likely Friday at Triple-A Memphis while throwing as many as 90 pitches — and he tentatively could return to the Cardinals by their Aug. 29-31 series in Cincinnati.
“If you allow yourself to dream a little bit — that is free, right? — you sort of think back to 2019, and what would we look like if we could get that again?” GM John Mozeliak said of finally getting a healthy Flaherty. “Getting that would change the dynamic of our club overall. Right now, there is some optimism based on what we saw. We’re going to keep our fingers crossed that we have to make those type of decisions.”
Even after two strong additions to the rotation at the trade deadline in Montgomery and Quintana, there still is room for the Cardinals to improve their starting five. Dakota Hudson’s rocky first full season back from Tommy John surgery could be in line for an upgrade. Mozeliak understands the dots that are being connected. No one else would knock Hudson out of the rotation. Flaherty could.
The Cardinals lost two of Flaherty’s three starts in June. He had a 5.63 ERA and more hits allowed (eight) than strikeouts (six) in just eight innings of work. His season isn’t over yet, though, and hopes are rising once more.
“I’m not coming back as an X-factor,” Flaherty said. “I’m just coming back to help this team however we can. Guys are playing well. My job when I get back is to continue that on. Guys are stringing good starts together in a row. It’s my job to plug in and continue to do what they’re doing and to build off what they have done. Don’t do anything more. Just keep us right there. Keep us playing well.”
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