A four game winning streak. Three straight games with ten or more runs, something that ties a franchise mark (and would have been inconceivable–and I do know what that word means–a week or so ago). And when you wake up and look at this…..
…how do you not start getting a little excited about this team? It’s still not really logical and there are plenty of holes in the idea that this Cardinals squad has finally found the right mix and is going to take off, but with Madison Bumgarner going for the Giants against the Cubs today, you could start to dream about if Chicago loses and St. Louis could keep it up for another day, especially since they play better at Busch than on the road…..
How did we get here? How come four wins in a row is enough to take us from the pit of existential despair, where we need to trade off every piece not named Carlos Martinez, to this land of optimism and wonder? Fandom, man. We live and die every day with this squad. Even those of us (and there are still a lot) that aren’t printing playoff tickets or really looking at the postseason schedule that was released yesterday still are more excited about this team than we’ve been since, I don’t know, that 7-0 road trip against the Braves and Marlins? Maybe Opening Night after beating the Cubs?
Of course, when you crack 10 runs in three straight games (and they aren’t nail-biters), the era of good feelings is a little easier to explain. Last night started out as one of those momentum-killer games that we’ve seen too many off. Jason Vargas, who is 1) a lefty and 2) having a good year, seemed to be a tough task to manage and when the Royals responded to a Yadier Molina home run by plating three runs off of Michael Wacha (even though a case could be made Wacha had the third out of the inning via strikeout before the runs started, the home plate umpire disagreed), it looked like that kinda night.
Instead, in a resiliency not seen often in 2017, the Cardinals immediately responded with a six-run frame to give Wacha plenty of breathing room. Randal Grichuk started it off with a homer and Jedd Gyorko capped it with a three-run shot. In between, there were hits and walks and a wild pitch and a pitching change. Suddenly, the Redbird lineup seemed a bit fearsome. They tacked on three more a couple of innings later when Grichuk singled in two (thanks to a terrible throw into the infield) and Matt Carpenter doubled in the final mark. 10 runs, man. This team could go a week and not score 10 just last month.
Except for that one inning where he couldn’t finish off the Royals, Wacha seemed to do perfectly fine up there. He was throwing 96-98 often and got five strikeouts in his six innings. Seung-hwan Oh, Zach Duke, and John Brebbia finished it off by combining for three hitless, walkless innings, striking out a total of three in the process. Nights like this, especially coming in such succession, are allowing for a lot more rest out of the bullpen, which can only be a good thing. Matthew Bowman has pitched an inning in a week, which has to be great for his arm. Trevor Rosenthal hasn’t been needed since Saturday. Nobody’s being overused (since Brett Cecil saved the pen somewhat on Sunday) and hopefully that’ll show over the next few games.
I like what Grichuk and Molina did in this one, but I’ve got to give the Hero tag to Jedd Gyorko. He only had the one hit (but drew three walks) but that home run was so big. It took it from a 4-3 game where the Royals still had hope to a 7-3 game that felt much more secure. As for our Goat, I guess once again it’ll have to be Tommy Pham. Pham did have a hit, a walk, and scored a run, but was 1-5 with two strikeouts. It’s not a typical Goat line, but when everyone else is putting up some big numbers, it happens.
Cubs lost, Brewers lost, Rockies lost. Only Arizona, out of the teams that the Cardinals should keep some eye on, was able to pull out a victory last night. I’m still not really convinced the wild card is a legitimate option for this team, but it’s worth paying a little attention. The division is the bigger deal, of course, and that right now seems doable. Right now those seven games with the Cubs in September, four of which are in Busch, are pointed toward drama and meaning something. Whether that’ll be the case by the end of the month, we’ll have to wait and see, but the fact that we can look at those and realistically think about the division being won or lost there is amazing given where this club has been.
Of course, we probably shouldn’t get carried away. After all, a loss tonight drops them back to .500 and ruins some of the buzz that is going on with this team. Mike Leake takes the ball against new Royal Trevor Cahill. So far Leake’s been a little better at home (3.20 ERA vs. 3.53 on the road) but he’s struggled some in the second half. He did well against the Reds, but this was before the offensive explosion so three runs in six got you a L. Whether he can do better tonight (or if the offense will do more for him) remains to be seen.
Cahill came over from the Padres at the trade deadline, so he’s still getting used to Royal blue. He’s not gotten a decision in his first two starts, but he’s also only combined for 8.2 innings and allowed 14 hits, five walks, and seven runs. Most of that was his first time out versus Toronto, but Seattle got to him for two runs in 4.2 frames in his last start. He shouldn’t be overpowering so we’ll see what the Cardinals can do with him. Historically, that’s been quite a bit.
Cahill last faced the Cards as a member of the Cubs bullpen last September, throwing 1.1 scoreless innings in a game St. Louis won by six. Let’s hope they can do more damage to him this time!