Last night’s win over Arizona was big on a couple of fronts for the Cardinals. After losing two in a row – and with a three-game series in Cincinnati coming up – the Redbirds were in need of a victory. They have a good feeling heading into the Great American Ballpark, with their five homers. David Freese and Matt Carpenter extended their hitting streaks to 16 and 15 games, respectively, but they weren’t the keys.
Matt Holliday hitting the game-tying homer and continuing a hot week was one key. Holliday went 2-for-3 and his lifted his average from .244 to .256 in four days. The Redbirds would go on to get homers from Matt Adams, Daniel Descalso, rookie starter Shelby Miller and Carpenter in their 12-8 win.
The other key was the remarkable Miller. He allowed two runs in six innings of work, striking out nine and walking none. Yes, the bullpen melted down a bit, with rookies Seth Maness and Keith Butler each allowing a pair of runs. Having to use Edward Mujica was a shame. But the Cards head to Cincy with the best record in the game and a three-game lead over the Reds and four over Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
*The first two rounds of the draft were interesting. With their two first-round picks, the Cardinals took two left-handed pitchers: Marco Gonzalez out of Gonzaga and high schooler Rob Kaminsky from New Jersey. Jaime Garcia’s future is cloudy after shoulder surgery, and the crop of minor league lefties is thin. None of the franchise’s top 10 prospects coming into this season were left-handed pitchers, and those in the top 25 are already here. With the additions of John Gast, Tyler Lyons and now Kevin Siegrist, none of the top 25 Cardinal prospects are currently pitching in the minors. Adding Gonzalez and Kaminsky will help fill that void.
In the second round, the Cardinals selected shortstop Oscar Mercado, whom MLB.com had rated as the No. 1 high school shortstop in the draft. What the long-term future holds for Pete Kozma, we don’t know. Ryan Jackson didn’t make much of an impression in his first major league stint last year. So getting Mercado, whose ETA is probably 2017 at the earliest, is a strong pick. Of course, the rest of the draft is huge. While the Cardinals did get Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha in the first round, Allen Craig was an eighth-rounder, Matt Carpenter came in the 13th, Jon Jay was a second, Descalso a third, Matt Adams was a 23rd-rounder and Trevor Rosenthal came in the 21st. There’s a lot more value available as a draft unfolds.
*NBA Finals: Nobody should be surprised by the Spurs’ win in Game 1, especially with the way it unfolded. While San Antonio rested for nine days, the Heat were stretched to seven by Indiana and had two days off. So the fact that the Heat would get off to a fast start, but San Antonio would win the fourth quarter, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. With two days off, the energy level should even out a bit. The Heat do a great job of dealing with adversity in the playoffs, and this should be a long series.
*I love seeing the Blackhawks take a 3-1 win over L.A. in the Stanley Cup Western Conference finals. That snapped L.A.’s eight-game home winning streak. Now Los Angeles has to win three straight games, with two of them in Chicago. That doesn’t seem likely to happen. Marian Hossa scored the tiebreaker early in the third to make it 3-2. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who in Game 2 allowed more than three goals in a playoff game after 34 straight with three or less, apparently has to be almost perfect. He allowed three on 28 shots in Game 4, and with Mike Richards out with a concussion, L.A. just couldn’t score enough against Corey Crawford. It looks like we’ll have an original six Stanley Cup Final – if Chicago and Boston close out their series – for the first time since Montreal beat the Rangers and John Davidson in 1979.