I remember writing between Game’s 1 and 2 on Saturday how I didn’t know what to write about with this Cardinals team. I had been driven to the edge and back. I questioned every streak and slump. When a team rides a roller coaster like this 2014 team has, it’s hard to stay seated or keep a hold of optimism. So when the Cards fire off a 5 game winning streak, coming back in two games and walking off others, excuse me if I have to simply stand back and applaud the wonders and hazards of baseball.
This game demands attachment of the tallest order and regurgitating stats and headlines throughout the summer blues. If I had a dollar for every tweet I saw that read, “The Cards just don’t have it this year. No playoffs”, I couldn’t retire from my regular job but I could go on a nice vacation. Fans cut loose easy and fall hard fast. I am a fan and a writer, so I walk the line of proper cynicism and positivism on a daily basis.
After starting Saturday’s game 2 1.5 games behind Milwaukee, the Cards begin a four game set in Milwaukee three games ahead of the Brewers. In case you gave up and went into hibernation before the holiday weekend, the team has turned it around again.
The Basics. The team is on a five game winning streak. The Cards are 76-63 and getting contributions from everyone on the roster except A.J. Pierzynski and Tony Cruz. It seems like those guys have been waterboys since Yadier Molina’s return.
Here are a few observations I have about this team right now as the good times are rolling. Excuse a tad of optimism sneaking into my prose.
*Peter Bourjos has been hitting well for over a month. His game winning hit was perfect on Wednesday. With two outs and an 0-1 count, Bourjos banged a ground ball with eyes up the middle to score Molina. After a butt grab from Jon Jay in one of the most dramatic post game hugs in quite some time, Bourjos gave an earnest interview to Jimmy the Cat Hayes. He sounded like a kid who just woke up on Christmas morning to find that bike under the tree. He’s getting at bats and contributing. I won’t call him a full time player, but one with a unique set of skills ala Liam Neeson. He can’t slide properly and still swings at pitches thrown near the dugout, but he’s had a good second half.
*Matt Holliday, aka the HULK of St. Louis, cooled off the last two games. He must have misplaced his Thor Hammer(mixing up Marvel heroes here, I know) and grabbed lumber. This isn’t saying the man is going cold. Just noticing how white HOT he was for three days.
*Matt Adams needs a rest. It could be elbow barking or the oblique strain that may have happened last week. He doesn’t have any power and is 2-29 this past week. He has one HR since the Allen Craig trade and needs a RH friend at first base. That comes with the arrival of Xavier Scruggs today. Scruggs can hit and provide decent defense at first base. Adams needs the rest. He may have been overexposed(happens when he starts a long string of games) or he may be hurt. Scruggs can play in the postseason if the Cards move Shane Robinson to the 60 day DL.
*Shelby Miller took a step forward on Thursday. All season long, the kid has been a mind boggling young specimen. Two good starts followed by two bad and two good ones after. Yesterday, he pitched a gem. He walked three guys but he struck out 5 and got a few huge outs. Miller is so much better when he utilizes the fastball AND the changeup and curveball. Hitters can’t sit on the heat. He mixed them well yesterday and pitched great. His sophomore season has been disappointing and frustrating, but if he stands tall in September, all will be forgotten.
*Pitching matchup tonight is a tough one. Wily Peralta goes for the Brewers tonight. The man has shut down St. Louis all season long. He’s allowed 3 earned runs in 20 innings against STL this year with a 0.95 WHIP(walks/hits allowed per inning). He has a 3.62 ERa against the rest of the NL but a 1.36 mark against the Redbirds. He is the stopper Milwaukee wants on the mound tonight to stop the gas pedal for the Birds. The Cards oppose him with Michael Wacha, who is making his first start since June 17th. After only one rehab start, Wacha is being thrown at Milwaukee tonight. I like the 60 pitch count limit but I don’t like the idea that this kid has been rushed back after a few bullpen’s and one start. Dangerous, especially against Peralta. Let it ride, I guess.
*Matheny hasn’t gotten too much right this season, whether it be late game management or young player utilization. However, if he can pull it together in this final month and get results(good record, maybe great) for the third straight season, how can one say he needs to be fired? This is a results oriented business, so Matheny has provided results the past two seasons and has his team ready to surge this season. I have given him lumps when needed, but I won’t call for his head. Matheny is still learning and adapting. I truly think he manages with a player mentality at times and it gets him hurt. If he can utilize his roster this month and the next, I have zero problem with Matheny’s tricky ways. People think it’s so easy that you could easily switch someone else in for better results. That isn’t the truth and with the results shown by the Cards since 2012, why mess with the situation? Keep that in mind.
I also like seeing the skipper drop the gruff demeanor and do the mighty fist pump at the end of the game yesterday and have a laugh and smile a bit. It hasn’t been an easy season with the injuries and learning curve. Perhaps this leads to him relaxing a big and thinking more clearly. You never know right? Maybe.
I want to say that Lance Lynn has impressed me this season. This will get an article to itself this month but we exited August and Lynn didn’t blow up one single time folks. Lynn was 6-2 in the months of July and August with an ERA of 1.85. At his worst, he offers a quality start. At his best, he offers 7 innings of shutout ball against the Reds. He has risen to the challenge in his third year of starting. He’s more than a winner now. He’s a complete pitcher. As I said two months ago, long may you run Lance.
Thanks for reading and have a good day folks.