Daily Redbird Review: Shildt’s Gamble Pays Off, Cards Sweep Cubs, Busch Stadium Is Waino World.

The Daily Redbird Review…

What a weekend…

The Cards make a statement by sweeping the Cubs.

More than that … winning is good.

FIRST PITCH: After a depressing month of May (9-18 record) the Cardinals appear to be climbing out of the ditch and getting back to normal. Or so we think, anyway. Let’s see what happens over the nexy couple of weeks. But a weekend three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium gave the Cardinals their fourth straight win. And some happiness. It was their first series victory since winning three of four in Washington in a series that ended May 1.

This surge has lifted the Cardinals to 30-28, and they trail the first-place Brewers by 3 games. By taking all three from Chicago the Cardinals are only 1 and ½ games behind the second-place Cubs. The Cubs have lost 12 of their last 18 games and are wheezing offensively. The Cardinals caught the Cubs at a good time and took advantage of it.

Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Cubs was a terrific game. Suspenseful, a battle, and so much fun.

CARDS KILLER: Well, it wasn’t Kris Bryant. In the three-game series he went 2 for 13 with seven strikeouts, no walks and one RBI.

BASEBALL HERO: Just a fantastic and beautifully entertaining start by a fired-up Adam Wainwright, who inspired his teammates by turning in one of the more unique starts in modern Cardinals’ history. Wainwright tantalized the Cubs through eight scoreless innings, walking seven but striking out eight and yielding only two hits.

I went to the Play Index at Baseball Reference to check this out, and while it’s unofficial, here’s what I found: in the NL’s post-expansion Era, which began in 1962, Wainwright became the oldest Cardinals’ starter to deliver a pitching line of at least eight innings, no earned runs, and seven walks.

Until now, the oldest to do that was Bob Gibson at age 33 in 1969. Also: the last Cardinal starter to put together that interesting mix (at least 8 IP, no runs, seven walks) was Kurt Kepshire in 1984.

Does Waino love pitching at Busch Stadium, or what?

TURNING POINT: The Cubs had a chance to hit Waino with early damage, after he’d walked two of the first three batters faced. But Wainwright set the pattern and tone right there by snuffing the first-inning threat, inducing the a double-play grounder from Javy Baez to retire the side.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: Kolten Wong reaffirmed why he’s the best defensive second baseman in the majors by pursuing a bloop by Anthony Rizzo that seemed destined to land for a game-tying RBI single in the eighth. Wong rushed into position, made a leaping catch, and put the Cubs away for the inning. It was a money play, simply spectacular.

Wong also used his speed to steal second base and manufacture a run, scoring in the bottom of the eighth on a pinch single by Matt Carpenter for a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals needed that insurance run, because the Cubs scored a run in the top of the ninth to get within 2-1. Wong had two hits, a steal, scored a run, and drove in a run. Great game.

And how about Jedd Gyorko stealing second base bag in the fifth on the overrated Willson Contreras — and then scooting to third base on the catcher’s throwing error? That enabled Gyorko to score on Wong’s sac fly.

In his MLB debut, rookie catcher Andrew Knizner was smooth and smart and worked wonderfully with Wainwright.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: Beginning with his 39-pitch adventure on May 19, Jordan Hicks has a 9.53 ERA in his last six relief appearances. In 5 and ⅔ innings he’s allowed seven hits, walked five and has only four strikeouts.

SECOND-GUESSING SHILDTY: He followed his heart in staying with Wainwright for eight innings, which had just about everyone going nuts. But I actually thought it made sense, simply because Waino’s velocity stayed up, his curve was wicked, and he was getting the Cubs to pound ground balls. It wasn’t a crazy bet by Shildt, but it was a risk. And it worked out … barely, but it worked. That’s the bottom line.

Here’s  my  second-guess: bringing Hicks back on Sunday after he threw 35 pitches on Friday night. Whoa, Shildty.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Shildt vowed to make sharp fundamentals a priority and he remained true to his word. And the Cardinals’ vastly improved base running and defense were substantial factors in the three close wins over the Cubs.

BREATHLESS: The Waino Drama was worth the price of a ticket … worth an investment of time … worth watching until his final pitch.

ON DECK: Off today. Reds are in town for three at Busch Stadium beginning Tuesday.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie