As we reach yet another milestone in this seemingly unending drought of baseball, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at where we were this time last year. With Memorial Day well past and more than a 1/3 of a season gone, let’s remember that, while it doesn’t really rank with what we’ve gone through last year, this time last year we were coming out of a big mess as well.
A year typically isn’t long enough to completely wipe your memory, but in case everything that has happened since then….especially in the last 80 days….has left you bereft, the Cardinals ended May of 2019 tied with the Pirates in third place with a 28-28 record. Which wouldn’t have been so bad had they not gone 8-18 since taking a series against the Nationals that ended April and wrapped into May. The Cardinals had to win their last two games just to be at .500 for the end of the month, which they did by salvaging a game against the Phillies in Citizens Bank Park, then coming home and beating the division leading Cubs.
Luckily for them, the NL Central was just as tight as we all thought it would be going into the season, just for different reasons. The Cards sat 3.5 games back behind the Cubs and Brewers, who were just a 1/2 game out of the lead. Both teams had dealt with their own problems and, overall, the NL Central had been defined more by lackluster play than the solid competitive ball that was expected.
The Cardinals had moved Dexter Fowler to the leadoff role, which had unfortunately cooled his bat, and shifted Matt Carpenter down the lineup after a terrible start to the season. We all kept talking about Carpenter’s 2018, when he had gone cold the first six weeks then became an MVP candidate. Don’t write him off just yet was the biggest talking point. Well, if you were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, that is. You know how a portion of this fanbase continues to look for reasons to dismiss Carpenter.
Michael Wacha had been moved to the bullpen just days before the end of the month and the first results weren’t kind. Dakota Hudson had finally righted his ship (or the law of averages had shifted to his side, whichever you prefer) but it was so recent that there still wasn’t any trust involved when he took to the bump. Jack Flaherty threw six scoreless innings against the Braves in his last May start, which got his ERA under 4.00.
Another guy that had big expectations on him was Paul Goldschmidt. After his three homer day in just his second game as a Cardinal, Goldschmidt had eight in his next 54. It wasn’t bad, of course, but when so much was put on his shoulders, there was a bit of grumbling about what Goldschmidt was providing and there were questions about whether the extension the Cardinals had signed him to in spring training was a little premature.
Jordan Hicks was still pitching, though, which was nice to see. Alex Reyes was in Memphis, having shown poor command and then broke his finger when he couldn’t command his temper and punched a TV. He’d made two appearances since coming off the IL, though, and had allowed four runs (two earned) in 9.1 innings, but nine hits and three walks in that span didn’t have anyone expecting him to return to St. Louis anytime soon.
At this time last year, we were hoping the recent good play was a sign of better things to come and worried that another year without the playoffs might be in store. Honestly, I think we’d take that right now!