If Monday’s comeback win over the Reds was one of the biggest of the year, last night’s win was more evidence that the Cardinals team that held the best record in baseball through the All-Star Break is alive and kicking.
Joe Kelly, who apparently can win even if he doesn’t need to stop a losing streak, picked up his sixth victory after tossing six innings, surrendering just one run on eight hits — a homer by Sin-Soo Choo.
There were base runners, sure. But that’s become the norm for Kelly. He’s just good at working around them … or, in last night’s case, making them get themselves out. With two on and two out in the top of the fourth, a base hit should have scored Jay Bruce. Instead, two Reds ended up on third base. Which, well, that’s not allowed.
Kelly left the game having lowered his ERA (since June 1) to 1.77. He’s 5-0 in the month of August, 6-3 overall. That’s one more win than he had last season. Not too shabby for a guy many didn’t believe could last in the rotation, eh?
The youth-filled bullpen came in behind Kelly and did what we’ve come to expect — shut it down.
Kevin Siegrist continues to blow minds. A quick and impressive 1-2-3 inning against the dangerous top of the Cincy lineup added to his impressive numbers. He now has 40 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched. Have I mentioned how impressive he is?
Then, Trevor Rosenthal followed suit in the eighth. Six up, six down. The common denominator? Yadi went to the mound after each of the young relievers fell behind to the first batter. After the “meeting?” Nothing but strikes.
Also, according to Rob Rains, these “kids” continue to light up the radar guns:
Seth Maness sealed the deal to round out the trio of talented youth.
While the pitching staff was as impressive as ever, holding the Reds to a single run, the lineup provided plenty of backup.
Every starting position player last night had at least one hit, while Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina each had a couple.
After three singles in a row to start the game, Matt Carpenter scored his 100th run of the season, becoming the first in all of MLB to do so this season, and the 7th in Cardinals franchise history to reach the season mark. Carpenter’s run was credited to Matt Holliday who extended his RBI streak to seven games. He has also hit safely in 19-straight home games.
Of course, Allen Craig got in on the fun, too, slapping the only Cardinals extra base hit of the night — a double in the sixth that scored Carlos Beltran.
Speaking of Beltran, dare I say he’s heating up? And there’s no better time for that than now. He went 2-for-4 last night and scored two of the six Cardinal runs. He’s now hitting .380 for the month of August with 14 RBI, 11 doubles, and four home runs.
Know who else now has 14 RBI for the month? David Freese.
Glancing through that recap, it appears that the Cardinals may be back on track, and not a day too soon.
If you’re counting down the days until this epic two-week stretch ends, the Cardinals are 4-1 thus far. Pair that with three straight losses for the Pirates, and the Cardinals are suddenly 1.5 games ahead in the NL Central. Not a bad start, but it only holds merit if the trend continues.
The bats are hot. The bullpen is hotter. And Adam Wainwright is on the mound tonight to try to finish off the sweep of the Reds before the hard-to-handle Pirates get their turn with the now-confident Cards. Maybe that’s it — the confidence has returned. Whether it was a team meeting, the veterans shaking everyone up, or a well-timed “we have guys to replace you, you know” comment here or there, these Redbirds have their swagger back. The trick will be carrying it with them to PNC Park.
But first, the sweep. It’s Wainwright vs. Homer Bailey at 7:15 p.m.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on twitter @tarawellman.