To paraphrase Mr. Twain, reports of the Cardinals' offensive demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The activation of Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter (or the pitching staff of the Royals) seemed to give this team a spark this weekend. After scoring only seven runs in the entire Detroit series, they had topped that by the second inning Friday night en route to a series sweep when they scored a total of 30 runs. Life was good this weekend, so let's take a look.
Hero: You can kinda take your pick when the offense piles up 17 hits, but I'll go with Carlos Beltran, who "only" had two hits, but drove in four when both of those were two-run doubles.
Goat: This kinda game doesn't lend itself to much of a Goat, so I'll go with Fernando Salas, just because he allowed a run in his only inning. It didn't make a difference in the final score, but everyone else was just so good.
Notes: Joe Kelly got his first major league win basically by not messing anything up. When you are given a 10-1 lead, it's tough to be too bad out there. No home runs in this game, which is pretty noteworthy given that many runs. David Freese and Matt Holliday both had three hits as well.
Hero: Matt Holliday. Four hits, including a double, and two RBI. Holliday had a wonderful weekend and has pushed his season numbers up to a level we expect out of him.
Goat: Tony Cruz. Again, a solid effort by almost everyone makes this tough, but Cruz did go 0-4, even though he scored a run.
Notes: If there was any doubt that Adam Wainwright was back, I think we can eliminate it. This was his third straight game of seven innings and two or fewer runs. It's a wonderful thing to see. Allen Craig went deep, the first home run since the Sunday before for the team. The team's 1-6 hitters all had at least two base knocks.
Hero: You wouldn't think I'd be singling out a middle reliever in a game that the Cards put up 11 runs, but Marc Rzepczynski made sure that there was a win to write about. He came in with the tying run at second base and nobody out and got two quick outs. He'd have gotten out of the inning had Mike Moustakas not hit against an exaggerated shift, as he grounded right to where the shortstop should have been. Great work out of a guy that's been sporadic at times this year.
Goat: Lance Lynn. Staked to 3-0 and 5-2 leads, Lynn couldn't hold them for long. That's two starts in a row that have been problematic for Lynn, seeing his ERA rise almost a full run, and that's not escaped the Cards' attention.
Notes: Craig had another couple of hits, which put his struggles in Detroit further behind him. Beltran only had one hit, but it was a big three-run homer that got the Cards going in the first. Yadier Molina also put one out of the park as well. Along with Scrabble, Eduardo Sanchez got a big out to keep the game in the Cards' favor.
It's probably significant that Daniel Descalso started yesterday versus a left-hander instead of Tyler Greene. In fact, Descalso was left in there against lefty Tim Collins late instead of being pinch-hit for, and he came through with an RBI single. It looks like Nick's hat-eating might be put on pause and Tyler Greene might have run himself out of chances in the organization. Then again, it could be that he'll be back in there if Descalso struggles over the next week or so. I would still think second base is a position John Mozeliak is at least keeping in mind as he works on his trade possibilities.
Chris Perez has come out and said the Cards use stuff to get a grip on the ball. Well, Perez just said that they used substances, while Chris Carpenter and Wainwright explained that it's more rosin and sunscreen to keep a grip on the ball. On the one hand (no pun intended), that makes sense because the last thing you want if you are a batter is the ball leaving Carpenter or Wainwright's hand too early and flying straight at your head. On the other, I'd like to know if this is a fairly unwritten but widespread thing or more localized on the Cardinals. It doesn't sound like cheating, not like pine tar and scuffing the ball is, but I'd feel better about it if it wasn't just a team-specific issue. We'll see if more comes out about this in the coming days, though with Waino and Carp talking so openly about it, it can't be that big of a deal.
Speaking of Carpenter, he faced live hitters Friday and that went very well, so much so that he'll do it again today. If that goes well (and no reason to think it won't), he could be in line to start his minor league rehab starts. The timetable seems to have him back in St. Louis shortly after the All-Star Break. If so, that helps out immensely, as the Cards will have a fresh Carpenter for the home stretch.
Cards just two games out after all their struggles in May and June. If this offensive resurgence sticks and if the pitching continues to go well, the continued health of this club should give them an edge as they push into July and August. Keeping it close is the goal right now and it could be the Reds have had their chance to put this team away and weren't able to close the door.
Remember that one game series in Miami that started this season so many weeks ago? The Cards get a chance to visit the new Marlins park again starting tonight for a regular type of visit. Jake Westbrook is on the mound for the Cards. The numbers:
Some pretty decent historical numbers for Westbrook. Nobody's just tattooed him, though Hanley Ramirez has gone yard off of him. Ramirez isn't having his best season, but he's still showing his power so that's something to be careful of.
We'll quickly find out if this weekend's offensive explosion was due more from the health of the Cardinal players or the weakness of the Royals' staff. First up from the Marlins' stable of arms is Ricky Nolasco. His history against the Redbirds:
The Cards have actually done a lot of damage against him, especially Holliday and Beltran. Perhaps the bats can keep their heat going this evening after all. A strong showing tonight would be a welcome continuation of a trend, as the Cards haven't lost on Monday since the middle of May. (Granted, they had a couple of Mondays off in that stretch, but it still counts.) Look forward to seeing this offense continue!
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