Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Yankees-Cardinals was supposed to be a classic matchup between MLB’s two most successful franchises.

Instead, St. Louis pulled off an unceremonious sweep and sent the Bronx Bombers off the rails. Losing three games at Busch Stadium extended a losing streak to five games as New York went 10-18 in August. Worse yet, each loss to the Cardinals exposed some of the Yankees’ fatal flaws.

Clay Holmes blew the save Friday. Nolan Arenado’s first-inning RBI single was the only run scored Saturday. A clearly still injured Frankie Montas labored through three innings on Sunday as Murphy’s Law hit the Yankees with both barrels.

11 months later, and the Yankees return to Busch. Except this time, the circumstances are different. The script flipped. The Yankees are struggling to score runs while captain and reigning MVP Aaron Judge recovers from an injured toe. They’re third in the AL East and will soon be fighting for a playoff spot.

St. Louis, on the other hand, is in a complete freefall. The once-reliable Cardinals baseball machine is breaking down and the team is last in the AL Central. They trail first-place Milwaukee and Cincinnati by 9.5 games.

Now, add a weekend series with the Yankees in the middle of a brutal heat wave.

So what does this mean for the Yankees? Well, despite Judge’s absence, New York has managed to win three straight series. The pitching staff is baseball’s best with a 3.61 ERA and all that’s keeping the Yanks above .500. The lineup has been mediocre, streaky, and inconsistent all year long and finally showing signs of life after a monthlong slump.

This means the Yankees are in a prime position to pounce on the lowly Cardinals, whose arms rank 22nd in MLB with a 4.43 ERA. The lineup, despite featuring Arenado and last year’s NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt, has been average at best.

This, dear readers, is what we call a redemption story. Think of it as a spinoff of our own Florida Project, or how the Yankees could improve facing the Rays at Tropicana Field. The Yankees arrived in St. Louis last season and were uncharacteristically bad.

What if this year, they showed up again shorthanded, but played uncharacteristically well?

The pitching matchups certainly allow for it. On Friday, Luis Severino can build off of six shutout innings his last start while the Cardinals send out youngster Matthew Liberatore. Gerrit Cole can outpitch Jack Flaherty on Saturday. St. Louis hands the ball to former Yankee Jordan Montgomery on Sunday, so maybe his old teammates read him like a book.

Add the heat wave, and home field advantage means nothing this weekend. Both New York and St. Louis will play through a humid soup of a series and hope it isn’t too draining on the players. For the Cardinals, they’re just hoping to win two out of three games.

The Yankees, on the other hand, have a different goal. Erase last year’s bad memories and strike while the iron’s hot to win a fourth straight series.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.