"If they hang on here, the Cards will have won--is it ten of their last eleven, John?"
"Ten of their last eleven, Mike."
When I heard that on the radio last night in the ninth, it took me by surprise. The Cards had really been that good lately? I mean, I know they'd been winning, but like the players, I'd kinda focused on the game at hand instead of the big picture. Only a rough bullpen outing in Colorado is keeping this team from a double-digit win streak, which is pretty amazing given what we'd seen out of this team for most of the year.
And while a bulk of this run was built on the backs of weaker teams, the latest win came against a divisional leader. When the Cards start beating even the good teams, you know that this season isn't quite done yet.
Last night's win was a team effort, as so many of them have been lately. I'll give the Hero tag to Matt Carpenter, though, because his pinch-hit, two-run single gave the Cardinals the breathing room they needed and got a tough starting pitcher out of the game. The Cardinals showed some resiliency--something we don't always see from this group--by coming back right after Buster Posey had homered to tie the game and getting three more runs to take the lead back.
Give a lot of credit to Jon Jay as well. A four hit night and he's hitting .412/.500/.706 in five August games. It's good to get him back on track and I'm not sure it's a coincidence that we are seeing better offensive performances with him clicking.
It seems like the play of the game was in the sixth when Matt Holliday tagged up on a fly ball and went from second to third, barely making it but putting himself in a position to score on David Freese's sacrifice fly and break the 2-2 deadlock. That opened the floodgates and the Cardinals would never look back.
You hate to point out a Goat in a game like this, but as well as Daniel Descalso has played recently, I think Mike Matheny has to be careful about exposing him too much. Descalso led off--which probably says something about how Rafael Furcal is going, though Furcal will probably be back in the top slot tonight--and went 0-5, leaving five men on base. That's a tough night.
Jake Westbrook rebounded from Colorado, allowing only two runs in six innings and could have easily gone longer save Matheny rolling the dice and letting Carpenter bat to try to get some insurance. There's no doubt that the starting pitching has been fairly incredible for an extended period of time. If I'm reading this right, since the end of May Cardinal starters are 26-18 with an ERA of 3.53. It's been even better if you just look at July and August, with ERAs of 2.70 and 3.03 respectively. That's the way to keep teams in the ballgame. (The bullpen ERA has improved as well--in July it was just 2.18, though it's ballooned in August due to that game in Colorado.)
Right now, we are seeing the team that we thought we'd see most of the year. They've also cut two games off of the Cincinnati lead in the last two nights, pulling to within six of the divisional leaders. While getting the wild-card is much more feasible, a little but of stumbling by the Reds and the Cards could put some pressure on them. They have six more games with the Reds, including the last three of the season, so they still make their own noise in the race.
Kyle Lohse isn't requesting a contract extension, but he'd listen if it came up. Lohse has definitely earned that consideration, finally rebounding from his injuries to put up two solid years in St. Louis. With a rotation that has three signed locks, two guys that have contributed this year and at least two other prospects in the mix for the other spots, it may boil down to whether the Cards would rather a veteran presence in that rotation instead of two youngsters. If they are going to retain Lohse, they'll do it before he hits the market like they did last time, but I have a feeling that they'd probably let him go. Westbrook would come at a cheaper price and be more likely to do a one-year deal, in my mind, which would help the Cardinals.
Speaking of one of those prospects, Shelby Miller is getting right. He was the Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Week and has had four good starts out of five. John Sickles, one of the more prominent minor league gurus, wrote about him yesterday and indicated that there's little to worry about. It would seem possible that a strong August could get him a September callup, but if nothing else he's reestablishing himself as a contender for the 2013 rotation.
When you talk about the rotation for next year, even though he's not necessarily locked into a long-term contract, you can't leave out Lance Lynn. With 13 wins and an ERA under three and a half, Lynn's been a revelation this year and making all of us (and my hand is firmly raised) that thought the transition to the rotation would be a mistake eat a lot of crow. Lynn goes tonight against the Giants, who have barely ever seen him.
Again, Hunter Pence is an issue, but Pence had good numbers against Westbrook and was shut down last night. And, of course, these are the smallest of small samples.
Cards get to face Barry Zito. While Zito has been pretty maligned during his time in San Francisco--and rightfully so--he can still twirl a gem on occasion. He's had two outings of seven innings and no runs in his ten-game log, with some other low-run appearances as well. Of course, he's been tagged a lot as well, with an ERA over seven in his last three starts. He's not been especially dominant against this group of hitters, either.
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball