The Cardinals surge at exactly the right time

Last week I wrote a letter, really a cry for help, to the St. Louis Cardinals begging them to improve their play. Clearly, the joke wasn’t understood by all who read it. What matter is that the team saw it, and of course, they do exactly what blogs tell them to do. A quick aside: Everything in that letter was tongue-in-cheek, as is most of this first paragraph…except for this note indicating that the rest of what I’ve said was tongue-in-cheek. Blogs representing the views of frustrated fans are from just that, frustrated fans. We’ve all been frustrated at times this season, but the team is starting to really work some things out. They’re also getting some help from unlikely places.

After I wrote that letter, the Cards went on to drop the first game of a doubleheader against the Cubs. However, since then, they won six straight. They include: the final two against the Cubs, a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the first game in a critical series against the Brewers. At the same time, the Crew has really been scuffling. They’ve won just one of their last 10, including dropping two of three to the Padres, being swept by the Giants, and being swept by the Cubs. The loss of Carlos Gomez for at least a week, combined with the other injuries that team has suffered is part of this plot. Another part of this plot involves the return of Yadier Molina, and the return of Michael Wacha. Throw in a couple of expanded roster spots and some minor league call-ups, and you’ve got a recipe for a surge into a commanding three game lead atop the NL Central.

So who’s hot? No surprise, NL Player of the Week Matt Holliday is hitting the cover off the ball. Jon Jay refuses to stop his hot streak. Daniel Descalso’s sudden and inexplicable explosion at the plate had not yet subsided (until Friday when he went 0-3), call-up Randal Grichuk is getting some timely hits, and Peter Bourjos has picked up a couple of very timely knocks and has raised his average on the season to .245. Then there’s the matter of who is dominating on the hill. Lance Lynn (yep, that Lance) continues to be the go-to guy for must-win games. Shelby Miller has had a few good starts ruined by a lack of batting from the Cards — that wasn’t the case on Wednesday. He was lights out, and while he didn’t get the win (Trevor Rosenthal did), it was his fantastic start that shredded the Pirates hopes at avoiding the sweep. Speaking of the Cardinals’ closer, I’d be remiss not to mention the performance of Rosenthal. I’d be lying if I said his appearances don’t give me heartburn. Maybe they always will, but he has been shutting down bats with a changeup he can locate (and get a swing and miss from). Watching him take down the first two batters he faced on Monday’s contest, I’m not sure I saw more than one fastball.

Who’s not so hot? Matt Adams is struggling at the dish. At least for one game, that struggle even found its way to the field. Luckily, that appears to be an outlier. Adam Wainwright won his 16th game of the season on Tuesday, but he wasn’t sharp — except when he had a bat in his hands. The Cards ace drove in three, but let as many homeruns go in the same game. It’s an interesting bit of baseball trivia, but for fans of St. Louis baseball, it’s troubling. Justin Masterson, who is no longer in the Cards rotation, has been a rare miss for John Mozeliak. Luckily, the team spent very little for him, because he has been a dismal failure so far. The era of Dave Duncan is over, but I’m not sure he could even help this guy. He’s not struggling the second or third time through the order, the opposition is getting to him practically from the very first at bat — and it doesn’t stop until he’s removed from the game.

With the exception of the ace of the pitching staff, and one of the team’s better power hitters, the team is firing on all cylinders. That’s equating to wins. Granted, five in a row isn’t huge yet. Those five wins could not have come at a better time. All signs point toward this trend continuing. The hitters who are performing well have, for the most part, always performed very well. I wouldn’t look for them to backslide much. On the downside, there are important pieces that need to step up. Again, I don’t expect that guys like Wainwright and Adams can be kept from doing what they do for very long, either.

A Friday loss was tough, but these are humans. A string of six wins in a row was incredible, but the most valuable win the Cards have picked up was finally learning to make it all click.

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