Cards Home Again, To Face The First-Place Nationals

washington_nationals_logoThe Cardinals returns home to Busch Stadium for a 10-game series against the National League East, beginning with three against the first-place Nationals.

First-place Nationals? Yes, I was surprised too — I hadn’t looked at the standings in a week or so. Yet they are, and they’ve been on roll as of late — they won three straight over the Giants in San Francisco before losing yesterday afternoon after taking two of three last weekend in San Diego.

Here’s a preview of the upcoming three games, from the latest issue of the United Cardinal Bloggers email preview series The Bird’s Eye View.

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Birds Eye View HeaderWashington Nationals (35-30) at St. Louis Cardinals (34-32)
June 13-15, 2014
Busch Stadium

How We Got Here
Does this sound familiar? The Cardinals, coming off a disappointing loss of an interleague game in which they had a lead, enter the weekend facing the East’s first place team, one that’s been hot and won eight of its previous 10 games, with Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Jaime Garcia set to start?

Yes, it’s deja vu all over again – only with the Cardinals back at home to face the National League East-leading Washington Nationals this weekend. St. Louis is the final stop on the Nationals three-city road trip where they’ve taken two of three from the Padres, three of four from the Giants and the NL East lead from the Braves. The Cardinals return home after their own three-city journey through Kansas City, Toronto and Tampa Bay that began with a victory over the Royals and included three straight shutout wins — two over the Blue Jays, one over the Rays. The other three games were losses — and the Cards scored first in all three. Ah, these 2014 Cardinals …

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Today’s Loss In 3 Sentences

Cardinals Loss 2You’d never think a team could leave 17 runners on base and win.

Yet that’s what happened to the Nationals, as they beat the Cardinals 3-2 on a one-out bases-loaded walk-off sacrifice fly by Denard Span with a five-man infield and Seth Maness pitching.

Boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo, boo.

4 Highlights From Lance Lynn’s 4th Win

First off, see? Saturdays are better than Fridays for this year’s Cardinals. Their Saturday winning streak increased to a perfect 3-0 for 2014 with yesterday’s 4-3 victory over the Nationals.

LanceLynn419And speaking of perfect records, Lance Lynn has one as well — he’s now 4-0, the first (and, at the moment, only) pitcher in the National League with that many wins. There’s only one in the American League too: Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays, who also won yesterday afternoon.

Just a reminder: Lynn does rhyme with win …

Anyway, the win more importantly was the Cardinals 11th of the season. And here are four highlights from the victory.

1. The top of the second inning

Yes, another error, and not surprisingly by the Nationals. This time it was after a one-out walk to Allen Craig, when Jhonny Peralta grounded it to Anthony Rendon at third, whose throw to Danny Espinosa at second was wide. Both Craig and Peralta were safe. They each moved up a base when Kolten Wong grounded out, which meant they each were able to score easily on Tony Cruz’s base hit to right when the Nationals chose to pitch to him with Lance Lynn on deck. Although pitching to Lynn perhaps wasn’t a wise decision either, given that he doubled to the right field corner and drove in Cruz. A 3-0 lead in the second inning courtesy of the 8th and 9th hitters? Now that’s a highlight. Continue reading

And Now For Opponents Other Than The NL Central …

After the season’s first 15 games, the St. Louis Cardinals are 9-6 and in second place in the NL Central. And all 15 games have been against the other four teams in the Central, as the Cardinals finished up their series in Milwaukee by falling to the first-place Brewers 5-1 yesterday.

MLB NL CentralBefore moving on to face the Washington Nationals for four games starting tonight and the New York Mets for four after that, is there anything we can learn from those first of 19 match-ups have with each Central team?

The Cards lost just one of the five series they’ve played, only taking one of the three games in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Otherwise, they’ve won two of three against everyone else. That’s good to see — and especially good was stopping the nine-game winning streak the Brewers had coming into play on Monday.

The Brewers have to be the surprise of the NL Central so far, even though we’re just in the third week of the season. They have the best record in the majors right now at 11-4 and were the first team to double-digit wins. Their pitching is the best in MLB at the moment, with a team ERA of 2.17, with their starters ERA 2.52 and their bullpen ERA an incredible 1.33. What are the odds, however, that the Brewers pitching will still be so sparkling when the Cards meet them again on April 28?

Looking at the rest of the Central, the Cards overall ERA is 3.51 with the starters at 2.78 (third best in the NL, behind the Braves and Brewers) and bullpen at 5.06. The Reds are slightly better overall with an ERA of 3.50, though their relievers ERA is even worse at 5.18. The overall ERA for their starters is 2.94. In the standings, the Reds are 6-9 and in fourth place. Continue reading

One Is Definitely The Number For The Cardinals Lately

One is an important number for the St. Louis Cardinals these days, and it has nothing to do with Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

It’s the magic number for the Cardinals to clinch the National League Central title outright.


Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

It’s the number of runs allowed by Shelby Miller in six innings during yesterday’s 4-1 sweep of the Washington Nationals.

It’s the total number of hits allowed in the three innings after that, from four relievers.

And one, or less, is the total years of experience from the five Cardinals who pitched yesterday — rookies all. (Of course, “one” and “rookie” also means Michael Wacha’s grand total of hits on Tuesday night.)

One is not a lonely number at all — sorry, Three Dog Night. It’s a great number.

And great can be a word to describe this September for the Cardinals too, as their record is now 18-8.

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Numbers On Cardinals Side With 6 Games Left

Despite a disappointing loss to the Milwaukee Brewers last night, the St. Louis Cardinals are still in control of the race for National League Central champs.

9-23-13Yes, they’ll officially be playing in October — they clinched that honor with the Washington Nationals loss in the first game of their doubleheader yesterday — and maintain a two-game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates and, now, the Cincinnati Reds in the division.

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.

Tonight the Cardinals are back home to face the Nats at Busch Stadium — with brand-new outfield turf that could be rather interesting — for the final home stand of the regular season. Adam Wainwright goes for the Cardinals against Tanner Roark for the Nationals, starting at 7:15 p.m. Central Time.