Who are these Cardinals? They don’t seem to resemble the team we’ve watched much of this season.
For the third straight day, St. Louis got the upper hand on a playoff (as of right now) team, destroying the Nationals 8-1. The Cardinals ran up Tanner Roark‘s pitch count (and hung a few runs on him as well), jumped on the legendary Washington bullpen quickly, and just rode Mike Leake (who gets the Hero tag) all the way to a decisive victory.
This might have been the most fun game the Cardinals have played all year long. A good bit of offense, including coming through in situations that normally would have fizzled out. For instance, early on Yadier Molina (who had a great night himself, 2-4 with four RBI) came up with the bases loaded and nobody out. Now, as followers of the 2017 version of this team, we were conditioned to believe that, at most, the Cardinals were going to get one run out of that. Probably a double play by Yadi and hopefully it went 5-4-3 so the run scored. Instead, Yadi stroked one past the shortstop, two runs scored, and there were runners on with still nobody out. That was a nice surprise for us following the team this season.
With eleven hits and seven walks, it was a great night all the way around. Jedd Gyorko had two hits and an RBI. Paul DeJong hit the only home run of the night, a two-run shot that capped off the scoring. Even Greg Garcia had a walk and two hits, which is a sure sign of things going your way. Mix all that offense with four double plays and it’s an incredible night.
All this mattered because Leake was back to what we saw earlier in the year. He went eight innings, allowing just the one run and five hits. He did walk three, but most all of those got eliminated on double plays. Leake left at 93 pitches and could have possibly gone out for the ninth to get the complete game, but it didn’t hurt to run Sam Tuivailala out there for a frame. Tui gave up a hit and a walk but worked his way out of it, setting off the fireworks for a Cardinal victory.
If you are looking for a Goat, you have to go with Randal Grichuk who went 0-5, though he hit a couple of balls really hard. He only struck out once and had one go to the wall, only to find a glove. Good process, bad results, but he was the only starter not to get a hit or a walk.
What does this mean? Allen and I talked about it last night on Meet Me at Musial. They’ve won five of six, including the ones against the playoff teams. They are closing in on .500. Is this a team that has shaken off the rust and the ugly from earlier and now is actually the team that they want to be, a team that can compete? If they could win today and take the series (even with Carlos Martinez opposing him, I’m not confident about beating Max Scherzer), they get four games with the Marlins and three with the Mets to finish out the first half. The way they are playing now, they could win five of seven and be right above .500 at the break. With the way the rest of the division is going, that puts them right in the hunt and maybe, with these recent results, gives Michael Girsch some confidence about adding a piece or two instead of sending folks away.
It makes today an important one and we’ll have to see which Michael Wacha we get and whether the Cardinals can hit Gio Gonzalez better than they did earlier this year in Washington, when Gonzalez went 7.2 innings, struck out six, and allowed two runs, only one earned. Overall, the Cards haven’t had the best success against Gonzalez.
We all remember Wacha coming one out (really, about three inches) away from a no-hitter against the Nationals at the end of his first season. It’s not the same Wacha now, nor is this Nationals team much like that one, but maybe we can get some form of that Wacha today.
This one’s on big FOX, tomorrow night’s on ESPN. Probably a good time to exercise the mute button.