Two games up with six games left and a magic number of five definitely means the numbers are on the Cardinals side for being Central champs for the first time since 2009.
Even if the Cardinals go 3-3 against the barely-hanging-on-to-a-wild-card-possibility Nationals and the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates or Reds would need to go 5-1 in their final six games just to tie and thus force a one-game playoff for the division title. And that’s definitely an “or” situation — there’s no way both teams could both go 5-1, given they play each other next Friday through Sunday.
Interestingly, with the Nats five games back in the wild card race and also with six left to play, both the Pirates and Reds would benefit from the Cardinals winning tonight. Think they’ll be cheering them on during their respective games against the Cubs (Pirates) and Mets (Reds)? Scoreboard watching, certainly.
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.
Holliday blasts a 2-run homer and his 4th hit of the night in an 11-4 Cardinals win.
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. Continue reading →
The best way to get over a 2-5 road trip against your top two division competitors? A sweep upon arriving home, of course!
And that’s exactly what the St. Louis Cardinals did, moving from 1 1/2 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates going into Friday’s game to now having a 1 1/2 game lead thanks to Sunday’s rather easy 9-2 win.
The win was a great cap to a so-far-perfect homes stand also. While it was definitely a complete team win yesterday — every Cardinals starter but one had an RBI — Michael Wacha stands out, and not just for his pitching.
Although that was pretty incredible, as he threw seven scoreless innings and allowed just two hits while also striking out and walking two each. He has a scoreless innings streak that’s now 19 2/3 innings. Yet he also had a bases-loaded single in the fifth inning that drove in David Freese and Matt Adams.
It’s a positive that Lance Lynn didn’t have his infamous one bad inning last night, right?
And, to hear him tell it, he only threw three bad pitches all night. (Yep, really.)
Yeah, Lance, we know the feeling …
Not that any of this provides consolation, as the Cardinals lost 6-2 to the Reds and have now lost six of their last eight games — including three of four in Cincinnati. They are now 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Pirates and 1 1/2 games ahead of the third-place Reds.
The loss meant there wasn’t any momentum from Wednesday night’s thrilling 16-inning win — just like there wasn’t any momentum after those exciting 14-inning and 12-inning wins over the Pirates in mid-August. The Cardinals have lost the next game all three times. Plus, as we all remember from Earl Weaver, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. So, when that man’s name is Lance Lynn, Cardinals fans are pretty much bracing themselves for how bad things could go this time.
Not that everyone wants to dislike him and dread his appearances — I certainly don’t.
For all the fuss made about the Cardinals needing a starting pitcher in order to keep up with the Pirates, a bigger issue has quickly evolved: they have got to figure out how to score runs. Five losses, three runs.
Not even Wacha’s spectacular return to the rotation can save a Cardinals team that seems to forget how to handle the bats. Losing 1-0 to the Reds is not about the Cardinals’ pitching.
Baseball is a tricky thing. It becomes even trickier when you’re in as tight a race for a division title as the Cardinals find themselves.
It’s a performance-driven world, and yet sometimes, even the performance isn’t enough if the results don’t match up. Individuals are held to staggering standards because they must be — successful individual performance is the only way to create successful team results.
The pressure, the length of the season, the challenge to be better than the guys in the other dugout … sometimes, it leads to slumps. Maybe it’s mechanical. Maybe it’s a guy trying too hard. Maybe it’s just the sort of battle baseball is made of. The trouble is, the Cardinals seem to be in a synchronized slumping pattern. Continue reading →
There’s plenty that can be said about Adam Wainwright’s pitching performances of late — and plenty is certainly being said after yesterday, when he allowed six earned runs in six innings in the Cardinals 7-2 loss to the Reds.
It was, as we know, his second loss to the Reds in the span of five days. In the two games, he allowed 15 runs on 18 hits, struck out only five, walked four and saw his ERA rise from 2.58 to 3.14. Yes, both performances are following his 128-pitch complete game victory against the Braves on Aug. 23 — and plenty has been said about these performances being the result of throwing so many pitches.
It’s interesting to take a bigger picture look at Wainwright’s numbers for this season overall. Sure, we can see the 15-9 record and previously mentioned 3.14 ERA and the 187 strikeouts compared to the 29 walks, and especially drool over that strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Things are looking good for the St. Louis Cardinals these days.
Three 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.
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.
Can’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.
And so the rough games continue for the Cardinals …
One bad inning from Lance Lynn, an offense that couldn’t take advantage of opportunities and a second straight night with double-digit strikeouts led to the Cardinals losing 4-3 to the Astros — despite taking a 2-0 lead after Erik Bedard threw two pitches.
Which now means this.
Yep, for the first time since April 29 the Cardinals are not in sole possession of first place in the NL Central. Considering it’s June 27, that’s fine — plenty of games, obviously, still left to be played. Plenty against the Pirates as well: 14 to be exact, including five in four days at PNC Park from July 29-Aug. 1 as the teams make up that rained-out game from mid-April during what was already a four-game series.
What’s more perplexing, though, is the Cardinals record in June. After going 15-11 in April and a terrific 20-7 in May, they are now 13-12 this month — and losing to teams that it certainly seems they should beat, like the Marlins and the Astros.