It was bound to happen sooner or later. The best offense in the National League through the first month would return to form eventually, right? How does 14 runs sound?
Hey, go big or go home!
To be honest, though, the first part of Thursday’s game didn’t look much different than the rest of the road trip — like the Cardinals were just hoping to survive until they could get back to St. Louis.
Funny how scoring a few runs and getting a blistering start from the Wolf Pup can change things.
So many good things happened in this game, so let’s pick a few of the key highlights.
Lance Lynn. Obviously. In a rotation that has been anything but consistent, Lynn’s ninth win of the season was a pretty remarkable feat! The Astros would have loved to be facing just about anyone else. Despite the two runs he surrendered early, he struck out 11 batters, making him the first Cardinal pitcher to record double-digit strikeouts this season. That’s the kind of stat I like to see!
Runs, Runs, Runs. Scoring runs is fun, kids! Just ask David Freese. After striking out three times, he found his groove — you know, the “Mr. Clutch,” gotta-pick-up-my-boys, stroke-one-to-straightaway-center-field-and-make-it-look-easy groove. Not only did he blast a two-out grand slam to cap a seven-run seventh, but he came back in the ninth and let loose on another one — this time a two-run shot to tally the 13th and 14th runs of the night.
Mr. Freese wasn’t alone, though. Shane Robinson and Carlos Beltran wanted in on the homerun action. Plus, Rafael Furcal, Allen Craig, and Robinson all went 3-for-5 on the night, combining for 6 of the 14 RBI.
Speaking of Shane Robinson … It’s thrilling to see guys stepping in and stepping up. With the mile-long list of injuries, let’s be honest — the Cardinals aren’t playing with their ideal lineup right now. The lineup we all fell in love with in April? The one that had us stary-eyed and a bit delirious because of just how good they were? That lineup isn’t on the field. But to get out of a slump, someone else has to step up. We’re going to need a lot more of that to keep things moving in the right direction. Thursday night was a good start.
Bullpen zeros. Anytime the bullpen takes over, it seems, “zeros” are hard to come by. Not this time, though. The tag-team of Eduardo Sanchez, Fernando Salas (just back from AAA), and Sam Freeman kept it simple, only allowing one hit in the three innings they pitched. Granted, by that time the game was pretty well out of reach. But, kudos to Mike Matheny for taking Lynn out when it wasn’t necessary to push him, and to the bullpen guys for holding down the fort.
Sometimes, all it takes to shake things up is one great outing — be it as a pitcher, a hittter, or an entire team. Of course, only time will tell how this impacts the club as they head home for some interleague play, but it was quite evident that the mood at Minute Maid Park shifted dramatically after the third inning.
In fact, Derrick Goold tweeted this last night: “
#Cardinals started this game like the last game of Spring Training, eager to leave it, and now are enjoying it too much to go. #stlcards”
The Cardinals had life again. They remembered how to score, how to stay out of trouble, and how to utilize the strengths in their depth.
Is it sustainable? We shall see. But, the moral of the story? When they are good, they are very, very good! Let’s take this series win and head home! Here’s hoping this is the start of a beautiful June!
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.