The Cards won a game last night. But they lost so much more.
This rag-tag group has been surprising people, sticking around in a race people said they had no business being in. 2.5 games made them better than preseason favorite Milwaukee and, if the Cubs weren't playing out of their mind at home, they could easily be on top of the NL Central.
That all got a lot more difficult last night when Number Five crashed to the ground, screaming in pain. Knowing that he had to sit out a couple of days when he just tweaked it, it was immediately obvious this was going to be a DL trip. How long, we don't know. Dr. Paletta is seeing Pujols today, which of course brings trepidation to the hearts of many a Cardinal fan. We know it'll be at least two weeks. Hopefully it won't extend past that.
Chris Duncan has been recalled from Memphis, touching off a lot of the kind of angst only he can provide. It's true he's not shown the Memphis trip was a success, hitting .160 in his time down there
. I'm not sure what he's shown to get the recall. Maybe he's getting good swings down there, I don't know. I would expect, however, that the fact he is on the 40-man roster played a large part in his selection. Most of the other options, including Josh Phelps
, would have to be added, which means someone would have to be taken off. That's going to be a tough enough call once Colby Rasmus
is ready to come up, something that is getting closer to being an option with his rebound from his slow start. The only thing that troubles me about Duncan was the statement I read at CCH where Al Hrbrosky said Duncan would have come back up this week anyway. I'd love to know the reasoning behind that.
If this is a short-term thing, the Cards should be able to weather the storm. They are well ahead of the third place team in the division and have a three game lead in the wild-card standings over Florida. Even without Pujols, they could probably tread water for the next couple of weeks if the pitching can stay strong. They have two more with Cincy, a three game set with the Phillies, then series with KC, Boston, and Detroit. Philly and Boston would be the toughest of the matchups. At least Philadelphia would be at home.
If he's out until, say, the All-Star Break, things get a lot more uncertain. The beginning of July sees the Cards host the Mets and Cubs, two series that they really need to be able to compete in. There's only so long Ludwick and Ankiel can hold the offense together, especially since they'll be pitched to a lot differently now with the big thumper out of the lineup.
Losing Pujols and Wainwright on back to back days is a tough thing to deal with. How the Cardinals respond will be interesting to watch. Imagine taking Santana and Wright off the Mets or Ramirez and Beckett off the Red Sox. Of course, those teams have a deeper supporting cast, but they'd still feel the impact. What will happen when the supporting cast is a little less proven?
The only positives are that Joel Pineiro will be back, taking the hill on Thursday, and Todd Wellemeyer will be able to make his start against the Phillies. Pitching will be even more important while Pujols is on the DL.
Speaking of, Braden Looper and Johnny Cueto tangle tonight. Looper had a good start against the Reds in April
, throwing six innings and allowing two runs. He's got good career numbers
against the Red hitters as well. Cueto was bombed in the first series between these two teams, not making it out of the second
. He's struggled since then, the hype that surrounded him in the spring fairly dissipated by now.
Cards need to shake off having a different first baseman and continue this improbable run. Of course, that's easier said than done.
Oh, and before I forget, let's give Ryan Ludwick
the Hero title for his 4-5 outing, including a home run and four RBI. I'd give Mitchell Boggs runner-up status, because that was a pretty solid first start, especially in that bandbox. Goat would be Cesar Izturis
, just because he was the only one with a hitless night. It was a good game all around, save the injury to Pujols, which meant it was a terrible night.
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