Analyzing the St. Louis Cardinals right now is a bit like looking at a speeding train rushing right by the tip of your nose. Everything is going right for the Cards right now. They have went from chumps to probably champs inside a week. This time last week, the Cards were beaten by Jeff Locke and preparing to be beaten by the Cubs in the first two games of a weekend series. Since that debacle, the Cards tore apart the Cubs tiny hearts and got revenge on Locke and every other Pirate pitcher. The Cards have won five in a row and sit three full games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers, who have lost eight in a row. September has brought on a completely new Cardinal team. The engine got revved up at the end of August but the Cards are winning close, gritty and exhausting games.
Take Thursday’s 1-0 walk off win at Busch. Shelby Miller and Edinson Volquez engaged in a classic pitchers duel, neither blinking or backing down. The Pirates stranded runners and so did the Cardinals. Bad feelings filled the air as the Cards struck out with runners in scoring position but they were washed away by the work of Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal. In the 9th inning, Yadi Molina drew a walk. Jon Jay singled. Peter Bourjos stepped to the plate with two outs and Mike Matheny didn’t pinch run for Molina at second base. Bourjos banged a single up the middle and Molina barely beat the throw at home plate. A sweep!
Tonight, the Cards activate Michael Wacha and throw him on the bump for the start of a four game set with the severely slumping Brewers. I wrote on Tuesday how I liked the news but was tentative of how it could backfire. 48 hours later and I am still thinking about it. Wacha hasn’t pitched in a Major League Game since June 17th and made one rehab start on Sunday in Springfield. Suddenly, he’s ready to go. He could climb the hill and pitch very well. He only has 60 pitches to throw, so there is a limit. What I worry about is the future of Wacha’s right arm. A stress reaction can lead to a stress fracture. Do reactions suddenly clear up with rest or can they come back at bite a pitcher and team in the ass? I’m not playing doctor or anything here. Just being cautious with a precious commodity. Wacha is tough as nails and while I admit the pressure of a pennant race game in Milwaukee is more than a game in the PCL Playoffs, I think he can handle it. I simply worry about his health. I barely expected him to come back much less on September 4th. I guess there is no need to test that expert Cards medical staff.
Two things could happen this weekend in Milwaukee.
The Cards could step on the throat of the Brewers, take 3 of 4 and go up 5 games in the division. This is a real chance to take down Milwaukee and beat them while they are down. The kids from Sandlot could beat the Brewers right now. They were whipped by the Padres, Pirates and Cubs. The Cards are red hot and the last time the Brewers want to see. This is a big opportunity to push ahead.
The Cards could wake up a sleeping giant and make this series interesting. The Brewers could see this as the chance to climb back into the race and take back the division they led for months. Time is running out and there are only three games left at Busch Stadium between these teams after this weekend. The Cards could trip up, send Wacha to the mound tonight, and get ambushed. All signs point to an easy round for the kid. He is taking on a team without Carlos Gomez and painfully struggling to score runs. The Brewers scored 2 runs in their last 17 innings. Things seem to be perfect, but in all honesty, the game of baseball isn’t a nice one so I am tentative of what could unfold.
I don’t mean to be negative but simply lay all the possibilities out. I want the good times to roll on. The team is easier to write about when things go well. The words flow from the hand with glee instead of rage.
More than anything, I want to see these things continue…
*Mike Matheny pumping his fist and actually making a few good moves at the end of games. A weight is falling off the manager’s shoulders. It hasn’t been easy for him this season. He has made some terrible calls in the dugout, faced tons of injuries and managed to push his team into September ready to run away.
*The Jon Jay/Peter Bourjos critics still find ways to rage against each other while each player contributes to the success of this team.
*Pitchers like Lance Lynn to pick up a struggling Adam Wainwright in the meatiest part of the schedule. The 2014 season has shown an entirely different Lynn, especially in July and August.
*Matt Holliday continuing to destroy baseballs. He cooled off on Tuesday and Wednesday a bit. Hope his bat stays hot because he leads the team in hitting with RISP and go ahead RBI hits. Important man sitting in that #3 hole.
*Jhonny Peralta to keep drawing walks, getting doubles, and playing silky smooth defense.
*Randal Grichuk to challenge Oscar Taveras for starts by earning them and not being granted them. Grichuk has shown a smarter and quicker bat since being called up last week. He also gives the team a plus arm in the outfield and covers a lot of ground. Oscar has come on as well with his patience, hitting and glove but there’s nothing with two young hungry ball players fighting for room out there.
The Cards are the hottest team in the National League right now and playing their best baseball of the season. It seems like every time the Birds make a big run, it happens in September. Can it last? I used to say avoid thinking too far into the future with this team. However, this latest string of play shows that the good times and loving feelings could easily continue.
The best part about this streak. There are no off days to stop the momentum. Everything continues and rolls on. More baseball to be played and wins to be owned. I guess what I am saying is I feel absolutely thrilled to simply lean back and let this speeding Cardinal train blow on through.
Winning is relaxing, losing is aggravating, and waiting for the two to dance is some of the hardest work for a sports fan.
I’m not trying to complicate your mind, but only ease my own, ladies and gents. Thanks for reading and carry on.