Happy Days Are Here Again

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

The old song has some real meaning for Cardinal fans these days.  No, the club isn’t leading the division and their playoff odds are actually dropping even as they continue to win.  However, the Cardinals are winning, the baseball is crisper, the offense less stagnant, the bullpen completely overhauled and significantly better (though, as Bernie Miklasz points out to The Athletic subscribers, there’s some regression probably coming).  While you are never going to make everyone happy and Twitter still has folks that love to grouse and gripe about this and that, overall the temperature of the fanbase is improving and the gloom that hung over this team about a month or so ago has almost completely dissipated.

Of course, winning series will do that and the Cards took their fourth straight on Wednesday night, using a late offensive surge to put the game away and give folks a bit of a rest from the dramatics.  Our Hero is Yadier Molina, playing right along with the thoughts I had in our last post.  I said he’d probably get a couple of knocks because he’d gone hitless in two straight and that’s exactly what he did, smacking a home run in the first to start the scoring and a two-run double in the ninth to cap it off.

Matt Carpenter made a play for the title because, well, that’s all Matt Carpenter does nowadays.  The salsa-fueled first baseman launched his 31st home run to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth and later walked and scored.  You’ve seen all the crazy stats but let’s just look at the overall standings.  Tied for fourth in runs, tied for first in doubles, first in homers, first in OPS.  For a guy that some of us were worried was washed up in mid-May, that’s a pretty good season, right?  And that’s not even getting into things like WAR, where he’s leading or right there depending on your measurement basis.  You continue to wonder exactly how long he can be this hot, but he’s done it for close to three months now.  There’s no particular reason to think he’ll cool off for the last six weeks, though Ben Cerutti did a good job examining what the final lines would look like in different scenarios.

Molina and Kolten Wong were the only players to get two hits, but only one guy went hitless.  I really, REALLY hate to give Adolis Garcia the Goat in his first major league game, because it doesn’t quite seem fair to expect anything out of a guy making his debut.  He did go 0-4, strike out twice, and leave three guys on.  Not the most auspicious start to a career.  Even though he really probably should get it, we’ll go with Yairo Munoz, who went 1-4 but didn’t drive in or score a run and also fanned twice.

The pitching didn’t give us any options for a Goat either.  John Gant bounced back from his recent struggles to hold the Marlins to one run over six innings on just two hits, with four strikeouts to boot.  Chasen Shreve was used as a LOOGY, fanning Justin Bour then leaving the game.  Mike Shildt hasn’t done a lot of that over his time in the big chair and you wonder if he was auditioning Shreve for that role.  Given some of the big lefties in the division, we’ve talked all year about having some sort of neutralizer and Shreve might become that.  Dakota Hudson then went 1.2 hitless innings–the man has just allowed two hits in his first 8.2 major league innings, all of which have been scoreless–and Mike Mayers finished it up with a scoreless inning as well.

For really the first time this season, you could say this team is on a roll.  They beat the good teams, then they were able to follow that up by beating a team that was down.  They are 9-4 since overturning the bullpen cart and are tied with the Rockies for the second spot outside the wild card ticket-holders.  Right now Milwaukee holds a one game lead on Atlanta and both Arizona and Los Angeles, though they are also tied for the NL West lead.  The Cards sit 3.5 back of that logjam and 4.5 behind the first spot with games left against everyone.

August 13-16: Washington comes to town for 4.  Right now, they are a game behind the Cards.
August 17-19: Milwaukee at Busch for 3
August 20-22: In LA for 3
August 24-26: In Colorado for 3
August 28-30 has the Cards hosting the Pirates, who are 1/2 game behind St. Louis right now
September 3-5: In our nation’s capital for 3
September 10-12: Pittsburgh returns to SL
September 13-16: Los Angeles comes to Busch for 4
September 17-19: In Atlanta for 3
September 24-26: The last 3 at Busch, against Milwaukee

Even the last series of the year, a three-gamer in Wrigley, could be big if the Cards somehow make a push for the division title.  Counting this weekend against the Royals, there are only four series left this entire year that won’t directly impact the race: KC, Cincinnati, Detroit, and San Francisco.  October baseball comes early this year, folks.  It basically starts now.

The Cardinals will send out Austin Gomber to get this party started, going up against a Royals team that is just 1/2 game better than the worst team in baseball.  Kansas City is 2-7 this month, just breaking their losing streak by posting a 9-0 shutout win over the Cubbies.  They last won a series July 31-August 2 against the White Sox.  Before that, it was a July 20-22 sweep of the Twins.  I’m not saying the Cardinals have to sweep this series, but it’d be possible and it would be really nice if they did.  Here are the other matchups for this weekend:

Nationals at Cubs
Brewers at Braves
Dodgers at Rockies
Diamondbacks at Reds

It feels a little early to scoreboard watch, but given the schedule and the situation, I think it’s forgivable.  Let’s hope the Cards can take care of business this weekend!  You can also make your picks for The Cardinal Six right here to give you that extra reason to watch!

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