Cards Primed To Take Over Division Lead

August 24th, 2014. The day the National League Central Division was flipped. A day remembered by many as the day the Milwaukee Brewers fell hard and never got back up. This is the headline St. Louis Cardinals fans want to hear. This is the news they need to hear. They have waited all season for this group to bring it all together. They have endured painful finishes. Tough stretches. Bad nights. Crooked numbers from other teams. Losses to bad teams. Bad deals. It’s about time the local club started doing things right.

Justin+Masterson+St+Louis+Cardinals+v+Baltimore+m-hYiQHd4K4lThe Cardinals have won 8 of their last 10 games. They can win today and take the series against the Phillies. With a Brewers loss, they can overtake the Central. It’s really that simple. Let me put it into Al Hrabosky language for you. The Cards get 27 outs and score more runs than the other team while the Pirates score more runs than the Brewers and get 27 outs, and the standings tomorrow look different. If they had played better baseball, the Cards could be on a 10 game winning streak right now. How? If they hadn’t blown a 4-0 lead to the Padres last week and a 4-1 lead to the Phillies on Friday, they could be SUPER hot right now. Alas, this is the Cards and they play a fine game of heartbreak ridge.

A few things to look at before today’s game.

*Justin Masterson goes today and this is a big start for the big fella. He has started four games for the Cards since the July 30th trade and only one of them has been quality. Masterson hasn’t looked sharp at all on most nights and I really don’t care about his ability to get sink on his fastball or keep his delivery the same throughout a game. This is the big leagues folks and you either stink or swim in August and September. I applauded the trade because of John Mozeliak’s ability to acquire a man who up until 2014 could give a team innings. Either Masterson’s knee isn’t sound or he has simply fallen off the wagon of reliability. Here’s what I do know. In 8 days, Memphis Redbird reinforcements will arrive and they will include pitchers like Tyler Lyons and other young starters. Carlos Martinez continues to breathe down Masterson and Shelby Miller‘s neck for a start. Michael Wacha could start a game somewhere in less than 2 weeks. Masterson doesn’t have time to screw up any more starts. He has to pitch well, seize the moment and push the younger birds back into the nest.  If not, step aside Happy Guy and take a seat in the bullpen. The Phillies aren’t a good team by any measure this season but they can hit and Citizens Park is reap for breaking down struggling pitchers, so Masterson’s job doesn’t get any easier today.

If Masterson doesn’t look right today, Mike Matheny must pull him quick. Get Martinez or Nick Greenwood into the fray. Matheny hasn’t done a great job of managing this season but he can sure make up for it during this next month.

*I believe Adam Wainwright when he tells the media he is NOT hurt. He had forearm tendinitis in June and now that his second half effectiveness is down, tons of fans and scribes are playing medic with his issues. Waino admitted he isn’t where he wants to be but nobody is at this point. After a rough outing against Tampa Bay right out of the gate after the break(after which Waino skipped a start to rest the forearm), Waino shut down the Cubs at Wrigley. He was beat up by the Brewers but fired three straight outings of 7 innings and 3 earned runs or less against Boston, Miami and San Diego. The Phillies got to him on Friday but I don’t think Waino is hurt. This a tough transition year for starters and guys like Waino who don’t have blazing fastballs to work off of. He relies on location and executing at least 2 of his pitches and when those things don’t happen, he isn’t as sharp. While I do believe the absence of Yadi could be a factor in the whole rotation’s ERA rising since mid July, I think Waino is working through a slump. It’s plain and maybe a bit optimistic but I trust Waino to tell the trainers he isn’t right like he did after Tampa.  Waino is the least of our worries right now.

*Right when I start to call Kolten Wong slumping, he goes off on a hit parade. The same thing happened with Matt Adams earlier in the month. The Cards are hitting better as a whole in August and their 205 runs with two outs lead baseball. They have scored 4 runs or more in their last 10 games. The bats are starting to perk up. As the pitching is tiring, the bats are picking the team up. It’s about damn time.

*Lance Lynn gets better and better. While Waino has struggled, Lynn has been absolutely filthy and greedy with runs since June. He has been dynamic on the mound. I don’t see the young hurler shaking his head and stabbing his glove at the throw back from the catcher. Lynn is turning into an Ace type pitcher. Someone a team can hand the ball to in a time of need for a big win. Lynn isn’t just pitching better. He is growing up before our eyes. Last year, he finished 15-10 with a 3.97 ERA. Today, he is 14-8 with a 2.78 ERA. Stunning. Corey Rudd, Jared Simmons and Joe Schwarz taught me about the brilliance of Lynn late last year and I haven’t looked back since. He always had the ability. The head has simply gotten out of the way for Lance Lynn. He isn’t thinking or simply throwing. He is pitching. He isn’t throwing off the mound and letting his front leg fly off and his body fall to the side. He is composed and tight on the mound with every pitch. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. I said in March either Joe Kelly or Lynn would be gone in September, and I think the right guy was traded.

*Matt Holliday‘s struggles in 2014 are legit. His power is way down. His production is down. He is getting on base and walking but his slugging is down. What’s the answer to this? There is none. Older age, wear and tear, or a simple down season on the power side. If Holliday can finish with 80 runs drive in, hit .280 and crank 15-20 home runs I am fine. His OBP, doubles and walks will always be there. The man isn’t getting any younger and this trend of power drop could be something that firmly sets in during 2015. For now, let’s see if the hot weather sticks to the big man’s bat. He still hits a baseball harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. He is simply a hard guy to call in 2014. Numbers need a jump.

That’s all I got. This was a bit of a ramble but you will get one of those a week from me. Thanks to this team and their wicked ways.

Thanks for reading and find my instant takes on Twitter, @buffa82.



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