The Cardinals have been so hot lately that I am almost afraid to write a post, lest I do anything that brings them bad luck. But I am confident that our boys will continue their current winning ways and hopefully extend this hot streak to eight games and beyond.
It’s been awhile, so I have a few things to say.
First, I know I promised a post regarding a sort of "midseason report" of the Redbirds. I am not going to dedicate a whole post on this now for two reasons. One, I’m not too worried that anyone was eagerly awaiting this post and therefore nobody will miss it if I don’t write it. Two, I would pretty much be saying the same thing that everybody already knows and if you would a midseason report you can look about 1,000 places on the internet. Every media outlet possible has written one.
So instead it will be combined with this post, which will be more of a "how awesome is this seven game winning streak" post.
As we all know, June did not go well. But, I have every reason to believe that July and the rest of the season will continue to go better. And the two biggest reasons for that are in the bats of Edmonds and Rolen. Pujols is a constant. We know that. And, for the most part Rolen is too. Still, there are times he is good and there are times he is GREAT. Edmonds….well, he’s off and on, but man, when he’s on, he is unbelievable as well. And both of these guys are heading into the unbelievable category without looking back.
Edmonds average for the first 3 months of the season was .213, .271 and .279. He’s hitting .283 so far in July. More importantly, he’s hitting with more power, as evidenced by his slugging percantages, again by month: .427, .329, .443. And in July? .652. Obviously, a huge difference. Not only that, but he’s hitting the long ball more frequently. Edmonds had seven homers all together in the first 3 months of the season. He’s already up to 4 in July alone with half the month left. Same goes for Rolen. He had ten homers in his first 3 months and he’s also up to 4 already this month.
Still the biggest reward for improvement goes to catcher Yadier Molina. No doubt, this guy is a big league starter for his defensive ability, not his offensive. So whatever he does at the plate is icing on the cake. And, he’s been piling it on lately. Molina has gone from a .192 slugging percentage in April to slugging .500 in July.
Clearly, we’re on an upswing. So, for those of you who say we still can’t win 100 games this year, I wouldn’t bet too early. It’s still entirely possible.
The Cardinals have been fun to watch this past week and they look like they’re having more fun too. Who wouldn’t be? They’ve won seven straight, sweeping the Dodgers and almost the Astros in the process. They’re doing everything we’ve come to expect from these guys the past few years. They’re taking great pitchers deep, they’re playing incredible defense, (who else is loving vintage-Jimmy??), they’re pitching quality starts, the bullpen isn’t giving up runs in the late innings. In fact, each game against L.A. showcased a different aspect of this team’s talent.
- Thursday – Hitting the long ball. Cardinals win with Albert’s walk-off homer.
- Friday – Pitching. Carp goes the distance, pitches a 2-hitter and gets the win.
- Saturday – Small ball. Rolen gets the walk-off single.
- Sunday – Everything. Good pitching, even better hitting to beat up on the Dodgers.
The walk-off wins lately, especially, have brought a smile to my face. Thursday, Pujols goes deep to win the game for the Redbirds. So, on Saturday with the game on the line, the Dodgers choose to intentionally pass Pujols. Good call. Except, this time it’s Rolen that brings the walk-off win. If enough of the Cardinals start hitting, the opposition won’t have enough bases to intentionally put them all on. During this series especially, it’s getting harder to put Pujols on, not just because of Rolen, but suprisingly because the guys in front of him. Eckstein, always the scrappy hustler, has been getting on base a ton (every game this series), but so has Duncan in the two spot. This has been great to see. In his earlier appearnces, he showed a lot of power, but not a lot of patience at the plate. But, in his last two starts against L.A. he went 6-8.
The rotation has been great as of late and let’s hope it stays this way. As I said, Carp went the distance in his start and earned player of the week honors, so congratulations to him for that. He also didn’t give up a home run.
If I could pick one category for the Cardinals to improve in, in the second half, it would be for the starters to give up less homers. How many times have we said of a Cardinal starter, "He only made one mistake during the game, but it was a home run." Sometimes that "one mistake" has cost us a win. Other times, it’s been multiple mistakes, but had they not given up the homer, we still would have won.
The Cardinals have collectively given up 107 home runs, which isn’t suprising considering that two Cardinal starters are in the top 5 in the NL for home runs allowed. Marquis tops the list (21) and is joined by Mulder (18). Though it doesn’t factor into the team home runs allowed, Jeff Weaver (who has yet to start for the Cardinals) also has 18 this season during his time in Anaheim. Even young Reyes has gotten into the act. Despite his excellent pitching peformances, he’s given up 7 homers so far this season….exactly equal to the number of games he’s started.
All in all, though, the Cardinals seem to now just be starting on all cylinders and it’s exciting and it sure beats how I felt during our longer losing streak not too long back. Weaver’s start against Atlanta tonight will be pivotal for what’s in store for the Cardinals the rest of the season. With Mulder still out, it would be great to see Weaver really step it up and fill the role during this time. And who knows? If he shows he has something left, maybe we’ll be able to get something for him down the road.
It’s no easy task, however, as their 43-49 (.467) record is misleading. Atlanta has suddenly emerged from the bottom of the NL East heap. They’re riding a 5 game winning streak, including a sweep of the Padres since the Break. Even more impressively, have been their ability to show that they still plan to be competitive for the post season this year. Less than a month ago, they were 13 games under .500 thanks to a 10 game losing streak, in last place in the NL East and had the fourth worst record in the Majors, behind only the Cubs, the Pirates and the Royals. At 9 games back of the Wild Card, they didn’t seem to have a prayer to make the post season. They’re now only 6 games under .500, tied for 2nd in their division and have moved to 5 1/2 games back of the Wild Card. Met’s fans are very confident (and have every reason to be), but there are still nine games to be played between the Mets and the Braves. If the Braves stay hot, it will be an interesting second stretch.
Hopefully we’ll help the Mets out this week by sweeping the reigning NL East. Or at least taking 2 of 3.
On a completely different subject, it’s been very exciting to watch Josh Kinney pitch in a Cardinal uniform. He played college ball in my hometown and it’s always great to see someone like that reach the big leagues. Hope he has a great career in front of him.
Next, I’m going out of the country Wednesday morning and it might be awhile before I get to watch Cardinal baseball again, so I’m going to live blog some of Tuesday’s game. More than likely, I will have to leave for the airpot before it’s all over with, but it will give me something to do as I stay up all night. I would love for anybody who’s around to join in the live blog with comments of their own.
One more thing and then I’m going to end this ridiculously long post. The current score between Pujols and the Cubbies is:
Pujols homers = 31 Cubs wins = 35
Welcoming a Weaver win,