Cardinal Nation was beside itself when Adam Wainwright was rocked and the Cardinals fell to the Reds Wednesday night at Busch Stadium. One guy on Twitter was upset that D’Marco and I would suggest that the Cardinals had the edge in the Wainwright-vs.-Homer Bailey pitching matchup, saying we jinxed him, and another said that he’s believed since June that Joe Kelly, and not Wainwright, is the Cardinals’ ace.
Let’s take a deep breath and look at the big picture here. Sure, the Cardinals lost the finale to the Reds, but things are actually looking up. Since starting 5-16 against teams with winning records, the Cardinals have gone 7-3 in their last 10 such games, winning series against Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Cincinnati.
The Cardinals also have shown that they can win playoff-style games like the 6-1 win over the Reds on Tuesday. That was a perfect example of smart, aggressive baserunning that allowed the Cardinals to manufacture runs. Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran were aggressive in the first inning, with Beltran moving to third on an error by the right fielder. He also tagged up from first on a Matt Holliday fly ball in the sixth and scored on Allen Craig’s hit.
The Redbirds also pulled off a double steal in that game, and were alert defensively in catching Zach Cozart and Jay Bruce both on third. It was definitely a playoff-style game.
So, that’s why I say take a deep breath. Playoff-type baseball one night, rocked the next. That’s their personality. Of the Cardinals’ 55 losses, 20 of them – or 36 percent – have been by four or more runs. When they lose, they do so in big fashion.
I’m not going to worry about the Cardinals losing the game. I’m going to go glass half full on this one. The Redbirds have won five straight series and are 9-3 in their last 12. They have first place all to themselves as they head to Pittsburgh and still control their own destiny. If you get to Sept. 1 in baseball and are in the hunt, that’s what you’re looking for. There are five teams in the National League that feel that way: the Cardinals, Pirates, Reds, Braves and Dodgers. Everyone else, and that would include Washington and Arizona, would have to make an amazing run to get into contention.
A couple of other random baseball notes:
Who would have thought that the best non-waiver trade acquisition would be Alfonso Soriano? Since the Yankees got him from the Cubs a month ago, Soriano has played 30 games and is hitting .275 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs. With the returns of Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and even Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees are a threat to make the playoffs.
As good as Albert Pujols was here, the last two years for Miguel Cabrera have been the best two non-PED offensive years anyone has had in my lifetime. I turned five the year Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in “the year of the pitcher,” 1967, but Yaz hit only .326 with 44 homers and 121 RBIs that year. Last season, Cabrera hit .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBIs. With a month to go this year, he’s hitting .357 with 43 homers and 130 RBI. That’s with 30 games to go. He has a great chance to catch Chris Davis in home runs and win a second straight Triple Crown. Phenomonal.
Speaking of Pujols, Scott Miller’s piece at CBSSports.com shows us another example of an athlete who succeeded at an incredibly high level – to the point of having everything he did accepted and taking charge of an organization – but not being The Guy in his new environment. It took Brett Hull some time to make that adjustment when he left the Blues for Dallas, and it never did occur for Ozzie Smith when Tony LaRussa took over the Cardinals. To Pujols’ credit, it appears he came to grips with being the new guy in Anaheim. I wonder if he’ll ever be the Angels’ leader.
Good for Don Mattingly in pulling Yasiel Puig out of the lineup for not playing hard. Whitey Herzog had two rules: Show up on time, and hustle. In each of the last two weeks, Puig has broken both of those rules with the Dodgers. Rather than enable a young star’s bad behavior, the Dodgers are nipping it in the bud. Hopefully Puig will get it.
Congrats to fans of the Pirates and Royals. It’s been since 1992 and 1985, respectively, that those teams made baseball’s playoffs, and they’ll head into September with a chance. Those are some long-suffering folks. I’d like to see both franchises make the postseason this year.
OK – football’s here. Enjoy it. No weekends for more than five months without a meaningful game. It should be fun.