It was a year ago when the St. Louis Cardinals sat five games over .500 at 67-62, 10 games behind the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers and 10½ games behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL wild card. The Cardinals ended up going 23-10 the rest of the way to overtake the collapsing Braves en route to the World Series championship.
The Cardinals’ incredible finish had much to do with a complete and balanced attack led by veteran starting pitching featuring Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook. With veteran hurlers, a good litmus test is how well they hold up through innings 150 to 200 in a given season. Having pitchers who can finish a season strong is like having a thoroughbred with a good kick at the end of the race. For the Cardinals, Carpenter, Garcia, Jackson, Lohse and Westbrook were all coming off seasons during which they had success in innings 150 through 200.
Teams that have workhorse pitchers like the Cardinals did typically will finish stronger than clubs with pitchers who have entered the 150-200 inning range for the first time in their careers or haven't sniffed that range for a couple of years due to injury.
This season, the Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Angels are the three teams most likely to pull off a feat of the Cardinals' magnitude. Just like the Cardinals from a year ago, all three clubs have deep starting pitching and are loaded with arms who have proved they can pitch deep into a season.
Let's take a look at how these teams stack up going into the stretch run.