“Remember, when that sun is gone, that weapon will be ready to fire! But as long as there’s light, we’ve got a chance.”–Poe Dameron, The Force Awakens
If we wanted to extend the Force Awakens metaphor, the Cardinals’ season is about to the point where the sky almost completely dark and Poe is making his last run. Just like in the movie, all of the Cardinals’ efforts on their own behalf aren’t going to be enough, but they need a little help, like someone blowing a hole from the inside.
Then again, isn’t that the story of this season? If we were judging the Redbirds on their own merits in a normal year, we’d already be officially talking about next year and doing postmortems. While we’ve tried to do that a few times already this year, this division and this wild card race keep pulling them back in. As we’ve said, if the Cubs were even a 95+ win team, which would have been a bit of a step down from last year, they’d have about 90 wins now and the Cards would be close to double digits behind. If the Rockies had played to the level they played through August, we’d be talking about their wild card game against Arizona. Every time the Cardinals seem to dig a permanent hole, there’s another team that comes along and throws down some rope.
It happened against last night. After that sweep by the Cubs, things felt pretty bleak, as all the projections had the Cards with, at best, a 3-4% chance of making the playoffs. Now, well, it’s still bleak and it’s not as good as it was less than a week ago, but those numbers have risen to 12%. Every team they needed to lose lost while they were able to take care of Cincinnati. San Francisco beat Colorado. Pittsburgh beat Milwaukee. Tampa Bay beat Chicago. It’s not pleasant to have to count on help, but it’s not something you are going to turn away, either. It keeps the light flickering.
I’m not one that really believes that the Cardinals are going to make this improbable run. While they are playing better than they were most of the year, covering 2.5 games in 11 games is right in that 2011 run territory and, while we’ve seen that before, it’s also not something you can bank on. However, every little bit closer does help, especially when they have games against Chicago and Milwaukee on the last homestand. (The schedule maker did a pretty good job this year!) If nothing else, it keeps pushing back that date when baseball becomes meaningless (in relation to the postseason, not as a general thing). The Cards played five games of that nature in 2010, the last time they did so. At the very worst, they’ll have six games this year, as they can’t be eliminated from the wild card race until Monday. As long as there’s light….
As for last night’s game in Cincinnati, it was what you’d hope to see out of a team trying for October versus a team that gave up on October a long time ago. You did worry about facing a guy named Rookie Davis, because that just felt like a recipe for the bats to shut down, but after they saw him for a bit things went well. Our Hero of the piece is Tommy Pham, who surprisingly, given the fact that the club scored nine runs, was the only guy with more than one hit. Pham put up three knocks, including two doubles, scored two runs, and drove in two runs. No matter how sustainable for the future you believe this is–and I can’t shake that nagging feeling that we’re witnessing what’s easily a career year–Pham’s having a remarkable season that’s going to be part of Cardinals lore.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 19, 2017
(That tweet was before last night. Yeah, Tommy saw it, so you know he wanted at least one two-bagger.)
Other than Pham, things were fairly spread around. Matt Carpenter led off the game with a home run and walked twice. Dexter Fowler and Paul DeJong went back-to-back in the four-run third. Stephen Piscotty had a double and a walk. Nine of the team’s 11 hits were for extra-bases, which is how you pile up nine runs with the hits being as scattered as they were.
All that offense overshadowed yet another stellar outing from Luke Weaver. Weaver just went five innings, but that was more due to the fact that the club was up 7-2 when he left than for any issue of his performance. He did allow two runs in his last inning of work, but gave up just five hits and struck out seven. It’s getting to the point that, if you had to use Carlos Martinez in a wild card game, you wouldn’t feel bad about Weaver starting off a divisional series if they got there. Weaver will be starting in the big leagues next year, though you do have to wonder if this stretch has upped his trade value enough to make him part of a big deal in the offseason. There’s no desire to trade him, don’t get me wrong, but if that gets you back the most value, it has to be considered.
The bullpen was as solid as you’d hope it’d be. The big lead helped, of course, but four relievers (Zach Duke, Seung-hwan Oh, Sandy Alcantara, and Sam Tuivailala) each pitched one inning and struck out one batter, with only Tui allowing a base-runner. This served two purposes, in my mind. One, it allowed the guys Mike Matheny always turns to a day of rest but two, hopefully it gave Matheny more confidence in some of these guys, especially Alcantara and Tuivailala, whose big fastballs could come in handy at times.
We’ve got to pick a Goat and Kolten Wong was the only starter without a hit, so I guess we’ll be going with him. Wong is hitting just .139 in September as those back problems seem to have gotten to him. It’s disappointing that such a solid year for him seems to be ending on a sour note.
St. Louis (Carlos Martinez) at Cincinnati (Homer Bailey)
Chicago (Jake Arrieta) at Milwaukee (Zach Davies)
Colorado (Tyler Anderson) at San Diego (Clayton Richard)
It could be a good night in the wild card race if the Cardinals can beat the Reds, though Colorado faced Richard in his last start and was able to do damage. You have to like Chicago’s odds tonight against the Brewers, though I guess it depends on how Arrieta bounces back from his recent injury.
As for the Redbirds, the Cardinals scored 10 against Bailey the last time they faced him and he either seems to be really good or really bad as of late. Last time out, he gave up one run over 5.2 innings at home against Pittsburgh, the time before that, five runs in six innings against the Mets. You just don’t know what you are going to get, but you have to like the matchup for the Cards and hopefully they can pick up the sweep and maybe a game somewhere along the line tonight!