The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in the National League. Residing in arguably the worst division in the majors has played at least a small part in getting them to that point.
St. Louis looks to improve to .500 this season against teams outside the NL Central when it opens a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
Because they made the World Series last season and own the best record in the league this year, the Cardinals would certainly seem to be the team to beat in the NL. St. Louis, however, plays in a division where it is the only team with a record above .500.
The Cardinals have taken full advantage of the mediocre NL Central, going 19-4 with a 2.51 ERA against division opponents, including a 12-1 mark in their last 13 such games. St. Louis, meanwhile, is 11-12 with a 4.88 ERA against all other teams.
“It means we’ve played a lot of games in our division. But I guarantee we’ll be a good club against whoever we play,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
With their fifth win in six games, the Cardinals climbed to a season-best 14 games over .500.
Already loaded with several offensive stars, St. Louis getting any production from Molina has to be considered a bonus. The second-year catcher is batting .313 since opening the season in a 1-for-29 slump. He has 13 RBIs in his last 66 at-bats after managing only two in his first 65.
“He had a clutch day,” La Russa said. “He’s hit every place he’s gone, he takes his at-bats seriously and he has a nice stroke.”
The Nationals now face the best team in the league after getting swept in a three-game series at Cincinnati, capped by a 12-3 loss Wednesday.
Most disturbing for Washington manager Frank Robinson, whose team has dropped five of six, was the Reds had lost 15 of 20 before taking three straight against his club.
“When we are going good, it’s not the manager, it’s the players,” Robinson said. “When we are going bad, it’s not the manager, it’s the players. I make out a lineup and hope they perform. We are not performing at any level or any phase of the game.”