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Cardinals

WHEELER: Weekend Wrap – Cards Sweep, Rams Win

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St. Louis Cardinals David Freese celebrates his solo home run with teammates in the sixth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 7, 2013.   UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis Cardinals David Freese celebrates his solo home run with teammates in the sixth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 7, 2013. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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CARDS

Well, isn’t it interesting how much different three days can make?

Bats too quiet?

How about 26 runs in three games against one of the best pitching staffs in Major League Baseball this season?

Starting rotation beginning to fray?

Would you accept 1 run in 20 1/3 innings from Joe Kelly, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha?

In saying these things I’m not suggesting there weren’t problems the past couple of weeks, nor am I saying that any and all problems are now wiped out for the rest of the season. What I am saying, however, is that things can change…and fast.

Coming into the series opener on Friday the Cardinals were struggling mightily. They had just gotten smoked by the Reds in Cincinnati and there was a chance they could be as many as 4.5 games behind the Pirates if their struggles had continued into the weekend.

They didn’t and now the Cardinals sit 1.5 games ahead of both the Pirates and the white-hot Reds in the NL Central. The Reds just swept the Dodgers in 3-games over the weekend, in case you didn’t notice.

The great thing for the Cards is that they are now done with the Reds and Pirates, plus they only have three games left against a winning team. That would be Washington. The rest of the Cardinals’ opponents, not counting the Nats, are a combined 65-games under .500.

In the final 9 games of the regular season the Pirates and Reds meet 6 times.

Nothing is guaranteed but the Cardinals are in prime position to win the NL Central. They control their own destiny and they catch a bit of a scheduling break. Aside from their games against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati has a pretty easy road ahead. The Pirates? They do have 11 games against the Cubs and Padres but they have 3 in Texas and the 9 games against Cincy so they’re in the worst position of the three teams.

With 19 games left the Cardinals, despite all of their recent problems, are right where they want to be.

And they are 7-games ahead of where they were on this date last year (going on to reach Game 7 of the NLCS) and of where they were in 2011 (when they won the World Series).

Just thought you’d like to know…

RAMS

It wasn’t the easiest game – or the prettiest – but the Rams gutted out a 27-24 win in their opener and there were some really good signs…

Sam Bradford completed 71% of his passes for 299 years, 2 TD and one pretty awful pick six. Sam blew the play but the design of the play – a naked bootleg near the Rams own end zone – left a lot to be desired as well.

Overall, Braford was very good. He spread 27 completions around to 7 different receivers and posted a 100.7 QB rating for the first game of the year.

Jared Cook was even better than advertised, hauling down 7 catches for 141 yards and 2 TD. He’s a bigger, badder and faster version of Danny Amendola. He’s a significant mismatch for opposing teams and it appears as though Cook has a solid chance of being “The Man” for Bradford when things get rough.

Then you had a breakout game for Robert Quinn. Three sacks and a whole lot of face time for the Rams’ 23 year-old emerging star.

Make no mistake about it though…a better team probably would have beaten the Rams on Sunday. Mix a few bad penalties with 2 turnovers and an extremely shaky running game and you likely won’t see wins against teams like Seattle and San Francisco.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that last year they would have lost this game because of those things. They overcame them in the opener because young players keep getting better and the new guys on the block did what everyone was hoping they would do.

If the running game gets going, look out.

Don’t print your Rams playoff tickets just yet but feel free to get excited about the 1-0 record, at least for now. They’ll be facing a hungry 0-1 Atlanta Falcons team in their home opener so if the Rams lose that one, please don’t panic.

It’s a long season.

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