What a difference a couple of weeks can make as the cardiac Cardinals threaten to send more than just Jake Westbrook to the hospital. After dropping consecutive series to the Dodgers and Cubs, St. Louis rebounded in a huge way to reel off four straight series wins before closing out August the same way it started. A battle with the Pirates for the top spot in the National League Central will have to wait just a bit longer as both clubs take on division foes this week.
Cincinnati visits Busch for the last time this season but first of seven contests in the span of 11 days. The schedule makers must have a sense of humor or really got tied up with the whole interleague everyday thing. Since the Cardinals are again tied for the top spot in the Central, they naturally play the Reds and Pirates the next 13 games. The playoff picture has already been cleared up quite a bit, but the St. Louis hopeful will enjoy the rest of September’s schedule.
Except for one last road trip to Colorado and Milwaukee, the Birds on the Bat will spend 15 of the last 22 days at home plus two off days in order to set the rotation. The expansion of rosters could not come at a better time either, as the bullpen surely could use a fresh face or four. Keith Butler has earned one of the spots, and he could fill an even more important role down the stretch. Much like tonight’s starter, Butler has been stretched out at Memphis with four appearances of at least two innings as well as his first professional start last night.
Speaking more of Tyler Lyons, he will get every chance to fill in the last 32 games of the 2013 campaign and offers a strong alternative for consideration when playoff rosters are debated. It is crazy to think the regular season is a little more than a month away from ending, but the drama is just beginning. And while most of the talk lately has been about Pittsburgh’s run to the top, St. Louis has used the stretch to bring a new element into the fold.
Kolten Wong was pegged to be a September call-up from as early as the UCB Weekend in April. His rise in the organization had most of us buzzing about the possibilities of a true second base prospect taking over, and that was seen as a virtual lock until Matt Carpenter announced his presence in a hurry. The promotion of Wong was still believed to be a turning point, however, and David Freese has learned to adjust his routine to accommodate the new and improved Cardinals.
It helps the argument that Yadier Molina returned from the disabled list about the same time, but the 7-3 record since Wong’s debut further brings home the point. Veteran teams have to be aware of the next man up, even as playing time can be dictated by many different factors. With more speed and better late-inning defense, Wong and Shane Robinson are the only two on the roster where the offensive stats truly can be ignored in my opinion. Neither one will get to play everyday unless an injury happens, but they are both better served as currently utilized.
St. Louis has needed a pair of spark plugs to inject the slumbering offense from time to time, and the sprint to October should see plenty of 5’9″ blurs distracting the competition at every base possible.