The Cardinals finished off their 12-of-14 at home, post All-Star break stretch with an 8-4 record at Busch and a 10-4 mark overall, good for a .714 winning percentage.
During the stretch, GM John Mozeliak reconfigured the roster with the additions of first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss and relievers Steve Cishek and Jonathon Broxton.
Moss will hopefully be the bat Cardinal fans were hoping for, though naysayers think the team overpaid by sending single-A lefty and former first rounder Rob Kaminsky to Cleveland.
While Moss struggled in Cleveland this season, his three previous seasons offer reason for hope.
While in Oakland, a pitcher’s park with plenty of foul territory and difficult home run dimensions, Moss hit .254 with an outstanding .844 OPS, and averaged 25 home runs and 73 RBI. We know he has the ability to hit enough to improve the Cardinal offense at first base.
He’s thrilled to be a part of the organization, and if he can translate that energy into production in the last two months, he’ll be an upgrade.
Cishek was the Marlins’ closer for the last two years. A rough two months early this season made him expendable and affordable for the Redbirds. A guy with a funky delivery, he’s been nearly unhittable when he’s been on in the major leagues.
Last year, Cishek struck out 84 hitters in 65 1/3 innings, and in 2013 he struck out 74 in 69 2/3. In his last seventeen appearances, Cishek allowed runs in just two games, one of those against St. Louis. With the heavy workload the Cardinal bullpen has endured, he’s a great pickup.
Broxton, like Cishek, has been a 30 save guy. He has the stuff and the experience to pitch in big games in September and not flinch. As much as the Cards liked what they saw of Sam Tuivailala and Miguel Socolovich, Mike Matheny prefers experience down there when he can get it, and now he has it.
When you look at the last few Cardinal World Series appearances, late bullpen additions have played a key role.
In 2011, the Colby Rasmus trade brought in Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, and Mozeliak also signed free agent Arthur Rhodes. Those three combined for 76 appearances, allowing just 23 earned runs with a 3.70 ERA. Without those guys, the Cards would not have won.
In 2013, John Axford arrived and turned in a 1.74 ERA down the stretch, helping the Redbirds return to the Fall Classic. There’s reason to imagine that Cishek and Broxton can do what those additions did.
In a remarkable final week heading to the trade deadline, fifteen teams could be considered to have been buyers. In the National League, those teams include the Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Nationals, Mets, Dodgers and Giants.
Mozeliak was proactive, getting the first relief pitcher in Cishek and working on the Moss trade before a second injury to Matt Holliday. The Cardinals anticipate Holliday will be back this season, but if he doesn’t appear to be close in the final week of August, they can try to work a waiver deal like they did for Larry Walker in 2004.
At the end of the day, as Mo would say, the Cardinals simply have to do what they’ve been doing.
The starting pitching remains stunningly consistent, the bullpen still leads the National League in ERA, and they’ve scored just enough runs, like on Sunday against Colorado, to get by and win.
In the post-season, teams win with power pitching. With their starting rotation and the additions of Cishek and Broxton to the fireballing Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal, the Cardinals should be the logical favorites to win it all in October.
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