Well, The Wins Start Coming and They Don’t Stop Coming

After the game last night, the Cardinals put out the following tweet:

Quickly, let’s see how those teams wound up.

Year Result
2015 lost in NLDS (100 wins)
1981 no playoffs (strike year; had best overall record in division)
1968 lost in World Series
1948 no playoffs (85 wins; second in NL)
1944 won World Series
1941 no playoffs (97 wins; second in NL)
1939 no playoffs (92 wins; second in NL)
1936 no playoffs (87 wins; second in NL)
1951 won World Series

So winning 20 of your first 30 games isn’t a guarantee of future success, but if history is any indication 1) they’ll not have a problem finishing over .500 and 2) with the wild card, there’s a strong likelihood of postseason play.

For the Cardinals to win 90 games this year, they need to go 70-62 the rest of the way, a .530 winning percentage.  (To win 100, they have to play .606 ball, which is still a step down from what they are doing now.)  Would 90 wins be enough to win the division?  Maybe not, depending on how the rest of the division plays.  (Though, interestingly enough, the Cardinals have the largest divisional lead in baseball.)  Would it be enough for a wild card?  The overwhelming odds say yes.

Sadly, 90 wins now would probably feel like a disappointment given how the club has been churning out win after win this first month-plus of the season.  Who would have thought in mid-February that the Cardinals would have a chance to complete not one but two four-game sweeps and over such opposition as the Dodgers (who have lost 13 games total) and the Nationals.  Now, let’s acknowledge that beating Stephen Strasburg today to get that second sweep is a tall order, but it’s possible and that’s remarkable given what we’ve watched over the last few years.

Two more wins to recap since we last got together.  Let’s do it.

Tuesday (3-2 win)

Hero: Kolten Wong.  We talk about confidence being a big part of Wong’s game.  How ridiculously confident do you have to be to drop down a bunt with the bases loaded and two outs?  As K-2SO would say, “It’s high.  It’s very high.”  Wong’s single brought in the first run and let the inning continue so Harrison Bader could then single in two more and provide the winning margin (which we didn’t know since it was the top of the fourth).  Wong added another single and stole a base as well, though he did commit an error that made things a little dicey at the end.

Goat: Paul Goldschmidt.  There were a number of folks that could have gone here, just judging by the line score.  Matt Carpenter struck out four times, but did draw a walk.  Marcell Ozuna went 0-4 with two strikeouts and two left on.  Goldschmidt gets it because he got that extra at-bat and wasn’t able to do anything with it.  0-5, two K, two left on.  It’s not surprising that all the offense was concentrated into a series of plate appearances.

Notes: For the fact that it wasn’t Strasburg or Max Scherzer on the mound, the Cardinals did a LOT of striking out.  15 strikeouts, hearkening back to that first week or so of the season where the club put up double-digits in the K column quite regularly.  Anibal Sanchez, the wily veteran, struck out seven and the bullpen for the Nationals kept up the pace.  One of those nights, it seems, and they are OK to see every once in a while.  Just not every day like we saw early on in the year.

Speaking of that Nationals bullpen, it was supposed to be the weak link to the club.  Instead, they threw four scoreless on Monday and four scoreless here.  Perhaps they aren’t as inflammatory as their numbers indicated they were.

However, if you want to talk about veterans, we gotta talk about Adam Wainwright.  We’ve talked about how well Waino does at home, but he brought his A game on the road this time around.  He got touched for back-to-back homers by Adam Eaton and Victor Robles, but other than that really didn’t allow anything and did it so efficiently.  When he was removed with one out in the seventh after allowing a hit to Eaton and plunking Robles, he still was just at 80 pitches.  If it hadn’t been a close game or if he hadn’t had that slight hiccup, he probably would have finished seven and might have started eight.  Even getting as far as he did was a great help to the bullpen, one that was lacking Jordan Hicks on the evening given his use as of late.

Wainwright might come back to earth, but so far things have been pretty good for a guy we thought was possibly done this time last year.  His ERA is the lowest it has been all season at 3.73.  He’s allowed three runs and gone 12.1 innings in his last two starts.  It’s possible that things will catch up with him–his FIP is 4.91 and his BABIP is currently the lowest it’s been since 2014–but he’s earned some more time in the rotation, which does allow for things like Alex Reyes to heal before a change needs to be made.  And who knows, Wainwright could defy the odds all season long.  I know I wouldn’t tell him what those odds are.

Very good work out of the bullpen.  Not having Hicks, Mike Shildt was careful with who he threw out there.  Tyler Webb came in and got a double play to get out of Wainwright’s mess, then John Gant worked around Wong’s error to lead off the eighth and got Yan Gomes to strike out to start the ninth before allowing a hit to Howie Kendrick.

Shildt then went to Andrew Miller with the left-handed Eaton coming up.  I wasn’t so sure about that move, given that Eaton was the go-ahead run and Miller can be, shall we say, erratic.  However, Miller struck out Eaton and jammed Robles to finish the game and pick up his first Cardinal save.  That’s the Miller the Cardinals wanted when they gave him the contract and we’ll see if the rollercoaster starts to slow down going forward.

Offensively, besides Wong and Bader the club got two hits and a walk out of Jose Martinez and a hit and a walk out of Paul DeJong.  That was about it, but at this point the Cardinals had scored in a total of two innings in the series and won two games.  As I said on Twitter, this is a lightning strike offense that can, out of the blue, have a big inning, then pass like a summer thunderstorm.

Wednesday (5-1 win)

Hero: Marcell Ozuna.  Three hits and a walk meant that Ozuna was on all the time.  The Cardinals struck early against Max Scherzer and Ozuna’s double drove in the first run.  (Granted, that double was aided by Victor Robles misplaying a ball, but it still counts as a double!)  He kept getting on base, but it wasn’t until the eighth that his teammates brought him back around again.

Goat: Kolten Wong.  Wong did draw a walk, but otherwise went 0-3 and left four men stranded on the bases.

Notes: The Cardinals got 10 baserunners in seven innings against Max Scherzer, but they were only able to score in the first.  As with a lot of great pitchers, you have to get to Scherzer early and they did.  If it wasn’t for the late heroics of Yadier Molina (RBI single) and Harrison Bader (reached on an error, plating a run), the Cards would have done their “only score in one inning thing” again, but that one inning would have been enough.

That’s because we finally–well, not finally, because he did have that eight scoreless inning start recently–got to see the good Miles Mikolas.  He gave up back-to-back hits in the fourth, putting runners on the corners, and then Yan Gomes grounded out plating a run.  He gave up a walk and a single after that to load the bases, but scrambled out of that jam by getting Michael Taylor to line out.  Otherwise, Mikolas didn’t have too much in the way of difficulty.  He went six innings and outside of the fourth allowed just four hits.  It’ll be good to see Mikolas do this a few more times in a row or at least close together.  Until he does, though, there’s going to be some worry.

Giovanny Gallegos went an inning, striking out two, and John Brebbia took the last two frames.  Gallegos has really looked good his last few times out and I’d like to see him stay when Luke Gregerson gets activated this weekend.  However, it’s probably between Gallegos and Tyler Webb for who winds up in Memphis.  That’s not a terribly easy choice, though I think the right one is stick with Gallegos and go back to just one lefty.

Two hits for Paul Goldschmidt and for Jose Martinez, who singled through a drawn-in infield in the first to push across the other two runs.  Matt Carpenter singled late, but still struck out twice, giving him nine for the three games so far.  Hopefully he’ll start seeing the ball a little better and get on a run that at least has some resemblance to what he did last year.

As noted, Cards go for the sweep this afternoon.  It’s not going to be easy, as Stephen Strasburg vs. Dakota Hudson means that the pitching edge is on the other side and it’s also very hard to put together a four game sweep.  However, given this team and the way they are flying now, I wouldn’t rule it out at all!

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