When the Cardinals score 11 runs, there are certainly plenty of moments to highlight. It’s even better when they snatch first place back in the process. Last night’s win provided both.
Since it was Joe Kelly Day, let’s start there.
Kelly certainly didn’t look phased by the loss in his last outing against the Brewers. Or, perhaps, he was simply comfortable with the task at hand — getting the Cardinals a much-needed win after dropping game one in Colorado and only scoring two runs in the process.
Through five innings, he kept the Rockies scoreless, giving up just three hits and two walks. The downside? He left after five with what he later described as tightness in his right calf and knee that has been “feeling weird” as of late. After a rather lengthy discussion at the mound with Yadier Molina, Mike Matheny, and a trainer, he continued throwing with two outs in the inning. A couple of mind-90s pitches later, and he was eligible for the win. So, there was that.
Neither Matheny nor Kelly seemed particularly concerned after the game. However, the admission that this is something he hasn’t felt in previous starts but is enough of a bother to end his night means it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
Fortunately for Kelly, his fellow Birds had already scored 10 runs.
Hello, again, feast-or-famine offense.
As so often happens with this lineup, it became a game of “Anything you can do, I can do better.” Matt Carpenter had three hits. Jon Jay had three hits. Matt Holliday had four hits. Yadier Molina had two. Matt Adams had two. David Freese and Daniel Descalso each had two hits.
Four of those hits were doubles. Descalso added a triple, and Holliday blasted his 20th home run of the year, further cementing the idea that “beast mode” for Matty Ho simply requires Coors Field.
Six of the 11 total runs scored with two outs. So, they can still do that really well now and again!
Carpenter has now hit in nine straight games. Molina’s 40th double of the year ties him with Ted Simmons for a franchise season record. And, Holliday secured his eighth season in a row with 20 home runs and 30 doubles.
Yeah. This offense can be scary good.
Oh, there was some defense, too. Holliday made a running catch at the wall in the first inning (robbing Todd Helton of at least one RBI), and a sliding catch down the left field line later in the game. And, lest you think dear old David Freese is incapable of a defensive highlight, take a peek at THIS little gem.
That play, much like Carpenter scoring the 11th run on a wild pitch, was slightly more significant because of the Coors Field Effect — as was repeated numerous times throughout the night, “No lead is safe here.” Especially when the bullpen struggles. Okay, so it was really just Carlos Martinez. But, the last thing you you want is to let the Rockies back into the game late. We’ve played that game a time or two.
So. Moral of the story? The offense is still good. The pitching is still good. The defense is stepping up. But can it last? This team is inexplicably inconsistent, making the good games more difficult to celebrate. In a race as tight as the one for the NL Central, there’s little room for “All-or-Nothing,” unless it’s way more “all” than “nothing.
Can it last a few more weeks? Or through a playoff run?
Seems we’ve been asking that same question since the blistering-hot start from the original five-man rotation. It hasn’t “lasted” in the truest sense — they’re winning in different ways with different guys now. But, they’re still winning.
And at least for today, they’re flying solo at the top of the standings with a magic number (to winning the division) of 11. They’re also just one game shy of taking back the best record in baseball, which could mean home field advantage. So far so good.
I just hope they saved some runs for Adam Wainwright today.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on twitter @tarawellman.