Since we’ve last visited in this space, the Cardinals have done nothing but win. However, they’ve sampled from the variety of ways you can win a game.
–A late explosion
–A pitcher’s duel
–A see-saw slugfest
If you want to include the others in this winning streak, you can add the comfortable shutout (twice). It’s a dizzying array of different ways to win but the Cardinals have done them all, which just goes to show that this team is capable in so many ways. Especially since the trade deadline, they don’t have to bludgeon a team to win. They don’t have to get great pitching and hang on. They can do just about everything in some form or fashion.
What’s even more remarkable is the competition. Sure, this run started against the Nationals, but at least it was a stronger Nationals team than they currently have. The club then swept the Cubs, which is always a challenge given the rivalry aspect of the two teams. If it stopped there, with the Yankees coming to town, it would have been a nice righting of the ship and a good run.
It didn’t stop, however. The Cardinals had never in their history swept the Yankees. They can’t say that anymore after a weekend that, save for the temperatures, made folks think more of October than August. St. Louis proved that it might not be a World Series favorite, but it can play on the playoff stage without embarrassing itself.
There seems to be a term for what has happened this past week. It’s Mo(lina)mentum.
As much as the team got confidence from John Mozeliak’s moves at the deadline, as much as the young guys got a boost from knowing Mo wouldn’t trade them for the best player in the world, the return of Yadier Molina to the clubhouse seems to have sparked a sea change. Nolan Arenado gave credit to Yadi over the weekend and it seems like that change in atmosphere has done wonders for a team needing a breath of fresh air. I wasn’t sure what sort of Yadi was returning–was it a guy coming back because of the record, who still was limping through life–but it seems like the time away has done wonders for him. Molina caught five of the six games since his return and he might have caught the sixth had it not been a double-header makeup of the rainout the night before. I thought we might see a more balanced rotation between him and Andrew Knizner, given that they wouldn’t want to wear him out, but so far, not so much.
It’s quite possible this era of good feelings might end tomorrow night. After all, I don’t think the Cardinals have won the first game of a road trip all season long. No matter, it’s revitalized the club and, coupled with Milwaukee’s 1-5 run against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, put them in the driver’s seat for the division. Hopefully the club plays well in Colorado, because you have to know they are looking a little ahead to this weekend and the chance to perhaps put the Brewers on ice, at least for a while.
Save for the 17-game streak last year, of course, it’s hard to remember a week as fun, as exciting, as great as this one. It’s just what we as fans needed and hopefully it sparks yet another good run through the latter part of the season!
Thursday, Game 1 (4-3 win vs. Chicago)
Hero: Lars Nootbaar. He tied the game in the seventh with a sacrifice fly, then won it in the ninth with a walkoff single.
Goat: Dylan Carlson. 0-4, three left on. Perhaps the boost of not getting traded didn’t last as long as we expected.
Notes: Back to back homers by Nolan Gorman and Paul Goldschmidt broke the spell of Marcus Stroman and Nolan Gorman followed those with a double and eventually came around to score on Noot’s sacrifice fly. A lightning strike way of tying the game….Miles Mikolas allowed three runs in 6.1 innings but had runners on the corners when Oli Marmol made the pitching change. James Naile came in and kept both from scoring, which turned out to a huge point in the game….Brendan Donovan went 2-2 before being pinch-hit for by Albert Pujols, who got hit by a pitch.
Thursday, Game 2 (7-2 win vs. Chicago)
Hero: Tyler O’Neill. He only had one hit but he made it count, launching a three-run homer to break open a tie game in the seventh.
Goat: Jordan Hicks. He walked the first two men he faced in a one run game and then gave up a base hit later in the inning to lose the lead. It took a remarkable play by Nolan Arenado to keep the game tied and let the Cardinal bats come alive.
Notes: Three hit night for Tommy Edman, his first since June 3. Edman’s been struggling since his hot start and it was good to see a strong game from him….Arenado continues to challenge Paul Goldschmidt for the MVP award, hitting a two-run homer in the first in this one that almost looked like it’d stand the test of time (and drawing two walks)….Goldy isn’t just giving it away, getting two hits and drawing a walk himself. We are finally seeing what it looks like when these two get on track at the same time….Paul DeJong went 1-2 but also drew two walks. He’s definitely got a different approach since returning from Memphis….Jose Quintana made his Cardinals debut and allowed one run in six innings. Too bad he didn’t get rewarded with the win but that’s just exactly what the Cards were hoping for when they got him….Chris Stratton is not likely to have high leverage innings, throwing the ninth here and walking two, but he’s a little better than some of the other arms that have been in that mid-inning/mop-up role.
Friday (4-3 win vs. New York)
Hero: Paul DeJong. His two-run double in the eighth had Yadier Molina jumping higher than I ever thought possible. A huge hit for a guy who needed the confidence boost.
Goat: Lots of hitless folks in this one, but we’ll go with Dylan Carlson again given our “leadoff guy breaks ties” rule. 0-4 with a strikeout.
Notes: Andre Pallante deserves Hero consideration as well. Coming in after Dakota Hudson went four innings and somehow only allowed three runs, Pallante kept the Yankees at bay with four scoreless innings, allowing just three hits (and two walks). That set the stage for the late heroics….Hudson again scuffled, allowing just three runs on his seven hits and two walks in four innings. In the postgame Oli Marmol again complained about the tempo of Carlson in no uncertain terms. I’m very interested to see what they do with him this offseason. I feel like he could be traded just for Marmol’s peace of mind….two hits for Nolan Arenado, who scored two of the runs, including the game winner.
Saturday (1-0 win vs. New York)
Hero: Paul Goldschmidt. Two doubles (the club only had five hits) and scored the only run of the game in the first.
Goat: Dylan Carlson. Another 0-4 day. Until Sunday, Carlson had hit .100 (2-20) since the trading deadline that was supposed to reinvigorate him.
Notes: Jordan Montgomery made his Cardinals debut and even topped Jose Quintana, allowing no runs in five innings against his former team. Montgomery might have gone longer but the heat and humidity created some cramping. Welcome to St. Louis, Jordan!…..Nolan Arenado had the only RBI of the game, singling in Goldy, and the pitching staff made that stand up….Jordan Hicks bounced back from Thursday, going 1.1 innings and allowing just a walk….Genesis Cabrera went 1.2 innings and did the same….it was a little scary with Giovanny Gallegos, who has a bit of a trend of allowing homers, holding a one run lead in the ninth with Aaron Judge coming up, but Molina talked him through it and Judge’s fly ball didn’t go nearly far enough.
Sunday (12-9 win vs. New York)
Hero: Paul DeJong. DeJong drove in four but the biggest three were in the eighth, when he clubbed a home run that gave the Cardinals a lot more breathing room.
Goat: Adam Wainwright. The ridiculously inconsistent strike zone did not help matters and if anyone needs a consistent (and hopefully slightly generous) zone it’s Waino, but you can’t lay it all on Wild Ed Hickox. Wainwright was over 100 pitches after four innings and whether it was because the Cardinals had a two run lead or Oli Marmol wasn’t sure how he was going to cover innings, but he went back out there for the fifth and gave up a double and a walk before being pulled. (In fairness, he had Andrew Benintendi on the ropes and he hit a pretty solid pitch for the double.) Both of those runners wound up scoring and had the game gone differently, that decision would have been a hotly debated one.
Notes: Chris Stratton allowed those inherited runners to score and gave up two of his own in 1.2 innings, but was bailed out of a tight spot by Hickox’s calling balls strikes….Jordan Hicks and Packy Naughton combined for two scoreless innings. It’s interesting that Hicks, who has pitched a lot this week, threw more than Naughton, who hasn’t pitched in a while and has shown he’s capable of multiple innings….two hits and a walk for Dylan Carlson, who really needed a good day….another home run for Nolan Arenado, who also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and had a double in the eighth in front of DeJong’s homer….Paul Goldschmidt went 0-2 but still had two RBI, on a sac fly and a bases loaded walk.