Appreciating Again The Magic Of 2011’s Comeback

Three years ago, the Cardinals began today with a record of 67-63 after being swept by the National League West’s fourth place Dodgers. The Cards were second in the National League Central to the Brewers, 10 games back, and third in the wild card standings, 10.5 games behind the Braves and one game behind the Giants.

2011-WORLD-SERIESWe know what happened from there, of course.

We’ll never tire of recalling how the Cardinals went 23-9 from Aug. 25 through the final day of the regular season on Sept. 28, when Chris Carpenter and Company beat the Astros 8-0 for a historic comeback to win the wild card. As those games — and wins — went by, we marveled at the contributions from The Shredder and The Riot and Freeser and even Carlos Marmol and his walk-off wild pitch in addition to the season-long contributions from Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Yadi and That Guy Who Used To Play First Base.

Yet one thing seems to be forgotten in all our giddiness and our magical memories of Happy Flights and reaching October and the incredible ride that culminated in glorious World Championship No. 11 in ’11.

The Braves.

It’s so easy to forget the absolutely vital role the Braves played in making it all possible for the Cardinals.

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Cardinals, It’s Been A While Since …

The St. Louis Cardinals 5-2 victory last night over the Atlanta Braves was their third win in a row, and those five runs came on 13 hits. Offense. Yay!

Their record improves to 22-20. Woo hoo!

Thats a winner-LGIn this season that’s thus far been much mediocrity, it’s been a while since several things that occurred during the game happened previously.

Last time the Cards were two games over .500: April 27, when they were 14-12

Last time winning three in a row: April 13-15 (part of a four-game win streak, April 12-15)

Last time with 13 hits: May 7 in Atlanta, 7-1 win over Braves

Last time Kolten Wong started for the Cardinals: April 25

Last time Wong had two hits in a game: April 24

Last time Allen Craig had three hits in a game: April 30 (he had four)

Last time Peter Bourjos was ejected: never

Last time Mike Matheny was ejected: Sept. 7, 2013

Last time Lance Lynn won a game: April 19, when the Cardinals beat the Nationals 4-3

Last time Trevor Rosenthal faced just three batters in earning a save: April 25 in a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh, his seventh save. Last night was number 12.

Positive progress all around, except for the ejections — and that’s all on on Sean Barber being ridiculous, so we’ll just let that go. Here’s to more positivity, though (and to umps just being umps).

The Braves and Cards are back at it again this afternoon at 1:15 p.m. Central Time, with the pitching a rematch from May 5: Aaron Harang vs. Shelby Miller. The same outcome, a Cardinals victory, would be great — and if it involves more hitting from Peter Bourjos, all the better. (Looking back at that post, glad things are a little more back to normal now … Thankfully Matheny has made progress on his managing as well.)

Whose Game Was More Gorgeous, Bourjos Or Wainwright?

It was a beautiful 7-1 win for the St. Louis Cardinals over the Atlanta Braves last night.

5-8collageWait — it actually was a gorgeous win, with Peter Bourjos having the best game of his Cardinals career so far and Adam Wainwright having a pretty stellar night too, both on the mound and at the plate. It was the kind of game that made us remember those times when these things used to be routine … everything coming together on both offense and pitching in the same game. But, as we all learned long ago, you’ve got to play them one game at a time.

And this one game was definitely a step forward for the now 18-17 Cardinals, with 13 hits to go with those seven runs on offense and the pitching continuing to be such a strength.

But which of our two heroes had the better night?

You’ll actually find both of them at the top of the stats list of the Cards hottest hitters in the past seven days, as Wainwright has hit .600, which includes a double and a single last night plus two runs scored. Overall, he’s hitting .400 for the season — thus well on his way to being The King Of All Pitchers with his stated intention to win both the Silver Slugger and Cy Young Award. He also became the first National League pitcher to six wins this season, joining Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays who won his sixth yesterday too. Wainwright allowed the one run on six hits while striking out six and walking win. Obviously, a nice bounceback from his previous start last week at Wrigley Field.

Then there’s Peter Bourjos. After his rare-as-of-late start on Monday night in which he went two for four and was rewarded with the chance to sit on the bench Tuesday until entering the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth, he definitely made his presence back in the lineup Wednesday known — from the very first pitch thrown to him by Mike Minor. Continue reading

Division Series Times Through Saturday Announced

Major League Baseball today announced the start times for all Division Series games through Saturday. TBS will exclusively televise up to 18 of the 20 potential Division Series games, while MLB Network will carry two Division Series games – one on Friday, October 4, and the other on Monday, October 7.

3471__nlds-primary-2013The National League Central Champion St. Louis Cardinals will host the winner of the National League Wild Card Game (either the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Cincinnati Reds) in Game 1 of the N.L. Division Series at Busch Stadium on Thursday, October 3, at 5:07 p.m. (ET)/4:07 p.m. (CT).

In the evening, the N.L. East Champion Atlanta Braves will host the N.L. West-winning Los Angeles Dodgers with an 8:37 p.m. (ET) first pitch in Game 1 of the NLDS at Turner Field. Both of Thursday’s games will be exclusively televised by TBS.

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Happier Cardinals Days Are Here Again

Things are looking good for the St. Louis Cardinals these days.

happy faceThree straight wins over the Braves, four in a row over overall, seven victories in their last eight games and, oh yeah — a return to first place in the National League Central after nearly four weeks, tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates as both teams are 76-53.

Happy days indeed!

And it’s been those Cardinals strengths that earlier led them to the NL Central lead and best record in the majors returning once more. Terrific starting pitching. Timely hitting, and plenty of it. Results just seem to come when those two things are working well.

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Gotta Love That Ferrari, Joe Kelly!

Where would the 2013 Cardinals be without Joe Kelly?

Thankfully, they don’t have to wonder. The “Ferrari in the garage” that is Kelly has been doing what any sports car should: cruising along and providing a lot of happiness (to Cardinals fans, at the very least) along the way.

Joe KLast night, the Cardinals won for the seventh time in the eight starts he’s made since officially joining the starting rotation on July 6 — they beat the Braves 6-2. And while the Ferrari didn’t necessarily achieve optimum performance last night, he motored along well enough for six innings and allowed the Braves two runs on a Justin Upton homer, one of seven hits he allowed while striking out three and walking two.

And the famous Ferrari quote was back again too:

‘He’s like having a Ferrari in your garage,” second baseman Matt Carpenter said. ”He’s settling in as a starter and he’s running with it. I love it when he goes out there and competes. He’s aggressive and he’s pitching with confidence.”

Yes, that was Derek Lilliquist’s description of Kelly back in April (and it was one that definitely caught our attention — because why would you keep a Ferrari in the garage and not use it?)

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Now Come The 17 Biggest Cardinals Games in the History of the World!

It’s deja vu all over again, isn’t it? Several consecutive crucial series for the St. Louis Cardinals against the National League’s top teams, just like three or so weeks ago. And it all starts tonight.

3d humanoid character with a exclamation markCan’t you just hear the dramatic music and visualize the slow-motion montages on Fox Sports Midwest?

Of course, no one wants deja vu to the outcome of that 11-games-in-10-days disaster against the Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds when the Cards only won three games — with two coming against the Reds, the team behind them in the standings.

When this 17-game stretch — four games with the Braves, seven with the Reds and six with the Pirates — ends on Sept. 8, we could have a much better idea of how the National League Central race will play out.

Or we could not.

That, however, is no fun to contemplate.

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Lynn And Co. Can’t Quiet The Crew

Apparently, the Brewers did their homework since the last time they faced the Cardinals. Of course, things have changed quite a bit for the Redbirds since then, too.

One inningLance “First Half” Lynn is tending toward the late-season struggles we hoped were a thing of the past. Jake Westbrook can’t seem to hold it together. Michael Wacha hasn’t been the rotation savior we’d hoped for. Neither has Carlos Martinez. Even Shelby Miller has shown signs of vulnerability after taking that line drive off his elbow a few weeks back.

And, the Brewers are the least of this rotation’s concerns over the next few weeks.

Last night, many will argue, was not really Lynn’s fault. A litany of innocent singles and a few less-than-stellar defensive plays quickly turned a 3-0 Cardinals lead into a 5-3 hole.

But, he had good stuff! They were only singles! Twice a double play could have/should have/would have been made if that slouch David Freese wasn’t manning third! Continue reading

What’s to Make of the Cardinals Last 14 Games?

Think back to two weeks ago this morning, July 26.

We were feeling good, right? The Cardinals just swept the Phillies the night before for their fourth straight win, were 62-37 and lead the National League Central by 2 1/2 games over the Pirates. They were starting an 11-game road trip to Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati followed by a four-game series at Busch Stadium against Dodgers — the chance to challenge themselves against the two other NL division leaders and the two Central contenders.

questionWe’d see what the Cardinals were made of during this stretch, see how they stacked up against their competition. Bring it on, right?

And now here we are.

This morning the Cardinals are 66-48 after last night’s 5-1 loss, in second place in the NL Central four games behind the Pirates. In the last two weeks, those important 15 games, they went 4-11 and had a season-high seven-game losing streak. The only series they won was against the Reds, the only team that trails them. Swept by the Braves. Losers of four of five to the Pirates, three of four to the Dodgers.

So what to make of this test?

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It’s a Challenge to Win Without Scoring

With all the advances in baseball, no one’s ever been able to figure out how a team can win without scoring. Doesn’t matter how good the pitching is. A big, fat zero on the scoreboard under that R column? No W.

zeroAnd the pitching on Saturday — well, poor Joe Kelly. He had a lot of big, fat zeroes too. With nothing to show for it.

Our favorite class clown proved that he’s serious when he’s on the mound. He threw 86 pitches in 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing a good number of baserunners — 7 hits, 3 walks — yet always working his way out of any potential jams. Early on it was via groundouts, like this nice double play that Daniel Descalso started in the third. Later it was by strikeout, as he had 3 total coming in the 5th and 6th innings — including a great called K of Dan Uggla on a 96 mph fastball to end the 6th.

After getting Chris Johnson to ground out to start the 7th, Kelly gave up a single followed by a double to put runners at 2nd and 3rd. Jason Heyward was intentionally walked to load the bases. And, with a double play the obvious requirement for the Cards here, who else to relieve Joe except Seth Maness?

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