Buck Showalter NY Mets
Brad Penner | USA TODAY Sports

Most predict a Mets-Dodgers showdown in the NLCS. But if the Amazins are to reach the World Series, they will likely have to get through an unexpected challenge — and one we believe will have their number.

The Cardinals will be the Mets’ biggest October hurdle. Don’t look now, but they made significant additions at the deadline. And those moves have paid immediate dividends.

The Cardinals did what they needed most and upgraded their pitching. They added veteran Jose Quintana, who has had a resurgent year. They added former Yankees southpaw Jordan Montgomery, who has been lights-out in St. Louis. Pair them with Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright and soon-to-return ace Jack Flaherty and it is a strong postseason rotation.

A strong bullpen is a must to make any kind of run in the playoffs. Something the Mets, other than closer Edwin Diaz, do not have. But the Cardinals do. Their bullpen has a sub-4 ERA and it will only get lower. The Cardinals have multiple solid relievers. Closer Ryan Helsey is having a career year with a 0.91 ERA. Giovanny Gallegos has a sub-3 ERA along with Genesis Cabrera. All three have pitched in high-leverage situations all year. All three have also closed. No situation should be too big for them in the postseason. Something the Mets cannot say outside of Diaz. 

The Cardinals have won seven straight games and are 19-4 in their last 22 games, opening up a five-game lead on the Brewers in the NL Central. The Dodgers will have the top seed (and likely see the Cardinals in the NLDS), but their array of struggling hitters will hold them back. That’s another area where St. Louis excels with a top-5 offense. The Cardinals will upset them, and then it will be their bullpen against the Mets’. That makes them a threat to the Amazins. And could bring an end to their season.

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