It’s an understatement to say that the Cardinals play hot in September baseball. Those who have watched the Cardinals for years just know that’s the way it is. That’s why when you’re predicting who’s going to make the postseason, it’s rather hard to bet against the Cardinals, even when they’re a few games down. Something about this club just turns an extra cylinder with the calendar turns to the last month of the season.
It’s the same reason (only in reverse) why you see clubs like the Brewers, Reds and Pirates in a slide during September baseball. Although, the Brewers aren’t in a slide, so much as a complete freefall. I would be so frustrated if I were a Brewers fan.
The Cardinals are currently 6-1 in September this year and have gone 58-29 in September since 2011. The Cardinals know how to crank it up in September and luckily, for us Cards fan, this year has been no different.
We all know that winning in the postseason is about getting hot at the right time. The Cardinals are getting hot. The question now will be if they are able to keep that pace going up through the rest of September and into October. All I know is that this team has been fun to watch lately. It seems that every piece of the puzzle is starting to finally click together.
There are 19 games left and the Cardinals have a 4 1/2 game lead in the central. I like those numbers.
Here’s an article that sums up exactly how good the Cardinals are year after year, even when they haven’t necessarily been all that good this season.
Finally in 1st,
Don’t look now but the Cardinals seem to be actually on a roll. Don’t confuse this with the team getting hot. Yes, they’ve won 3 in a row and 6 of their last 7, but I wouldn’t necessarily call the way the Cardinals have been doing it, “getting hot.” 4 of their last 6 games, including, their last 3, have all been 1 win margins. Most of that has come from wins in the late innings, including the walk-off variety, because they have dug themselves in a hole in the early innings, or blew the save.
Nevertheless, a win is a win and the standings only show the wins, not how it happened. I’m just hoping that these squeaker wins will truly spark the Cardinals into getting themselves going on all cylinders. A lot of the pieces seem to be right there: Adams has begun to heat up again, Descalso is producing off the bench, Yadi has begun to catch again and Wacha’s rehab is going well.
If by September, the Redbirds can get going in the way I know they are capable of, the central division could easily be in reach. Of course, the Brewers will have to help out, as they have been going like a team who is ready to win it all. Hopefully with their 5 game winning streak, they have peaked a little too soon and we’ll see them slip into 2nd before long.
For now I’ll just take the wins, however we can get them.
A win’s a win,
Ok, so it’s only a 3 game winning streak. Maybe nothing to get too excited about yet. But I feel that in the last few games the Cardinals are playing with a tad more hunger. Granted, their first win against the Padres was the result of Shane Robinson’s arm / questionable call combo that had me climbing the walls. But, at least the hitting seems to be getting more on track. Adams is starting to contribute in big situations again and Taveras even had a nice little pinch hit tonight.
But still it’s only a 3 game winning streak. As nice as it is, until I see a 7 or 8 game winning streak, or heck….even just going 7-3, or 8-2 in the next 10 games would be nice. Because here’s the problem. The Cardinals are 13-12 since the All-Star Break. If they should lose tomorrow, they will be right back at .500 ball. They have been at .500 ball for awhile now. It’s just not so noticable because most of the teams around them are in the same boat. In fact, the next two teams after them in the division (Pirates and Reds) are 5-5 in their last 10. .500 ball is not going to win the division and it’s certainly not going to be enough to sustain them in postseason play.
We all know that it’s not always the best team in baseball that celebrates in October. It’s the team that gets the hottest at the right time. And that’s what I’m hoping to see from the Cardinals. A little spark, something that says they are on the verge of getting hot and ready to compete in October. What’s scary is that the Brewers are starting to look like that “hot” team more and more. They’re that team that battles back and even if they’re done, you feel they’re going to come back and take it, just like that did tonight vs. a good LA team.
So it’s only a 3 game winning streak. But here’s hoping it’s that spark.
Time to get hot,
I’ve never watched a perfect game or even a no-hitter live. And while I watch partial innings or games of various teams, I normally only watch complete Cardinal games. So I probably never will unless a Cardinal tosses one. Jaime Garcia sure thought about it last night. In the end he threw a 2-hit complete game, but I’ll take it.
One of the big keys this year for the Cardinals to be successful was Garcia being the same guy this year that he was his rookie year. And he has yet to disappoint. The southpaw has been nothing but dominant for the Redbirds this year, tied for 3rd in wins, 3rd in ERA and 9th in strikeouts in the NL. Not to mention being only one of two guys to throw to complete games and the only one to throw 2 shutouts.
The other big key was Lance Berkman. Could he stay healthy? Could he be the threat he once was? Check and check. Berkman has been tearing up the league, leading in RBIs (32), 2nd in average (.392), tied for 2nd in home runs (10), and 4th in runs scored (25) and the season is barely a month old. He easily has to be one of the most feared hitters in the NL right now. And it doesn’t hurt that the guy who is leading the league with a .410 average is hitting right in front of him. In fact the these two are also 1-2 in slugging percentage as well. What pitcher wants to face that? Albert’s not hitting like he once was, but having him be the 3rd best hitter on a team isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And at the end of the year, his numbers will be right there. The offense has been absolutely torrid.
Watching this team this year has certainly been frustrating at times (nearly every 9th inning), but it has also been a lot of fun, watching them hit well, score runs and have fun themselves. I rarely saw that last year. They are winning series after series (except when they split a 4 gamer with the Fish) and leading the league by 1 1/2 games. Time to sweep the Brew Crew and hope for a few more Cincinnati losses.
The Reds are coming to town. This is a series most Cardinal / Reds fans have been looking to since the beginning of the season. And now here we are, almost a month into the season and it turns out, the teams are deadlocked at one game over .500, in a first place tie.
The Cards have an eternal rivalry with Chicago and at times with the Astros and the Brewers, but the Reds have sort of been like the Pirates. They simply take up space in the division. Then last year’s young studs helped propel the Reds to success they haven’t seen since the 70’s.
Add to that Brandon Phillips and the fact that he’s an idiot. Most Reds fans around here at least acknowledge that so it’s really surprising to see the number of people on message boards that back him. I’m loyal to my team, but if we had a player continually mouth off to the process and on Twitter, trying to act tough for no reason, I don’t think I could back that.
Of course the really stupid part weren’t his comments. He’s entitled to say whatever he wants. The main issue is coming to tap Yadi’s shinguards like he didn’t say it. If Phillips wants to make comments, fine. Just don’t come to home plate with your bat tap, like you didn’t say it. That of course, is exactly what Yadier said to him, and let to the pushing match between the two and the entire fiasco on the field.
That was last year, a long time ago, but I promise no one has forgotten about it. The question is, will they act like they have forgotten about it? No idea. I expect some booing of Phillips from the Cardinals and am anxious to see if Phillips taps Yadi and if he does, if Yadier responds.
Of course the best revenge is winning and completing a sweep of our division rival would be so gloriously sweet.
Bring on the Reds,
I drove to Kansas City and watched the Royals play the Indians on a very, very chilly night of baseball. Felt like I should’ve been watching the Chiefs, as cold as it was. I rooted for the home team, but they eventually fell in extras thanks to some poor work out of the bullpen. But I got to see my first Major League game of the season. I’ll be going soon to Busch.
On to Cardinal baseball.
Today was a double header, which the Cards ended up splitting with the Nationals. You always want to win 2 obviously, but I’ll take the split and hopefully tomorrow we will take the series win as well. As the saying goes, if you can win every series, you’re doing pretty good.
It was even better combined with the Cubs splitting their double header and losses by the Reds and Brewers. These four teams are now tied for first atop the central division, all at .500.
Both games with the Nats and the Cards, the teams were two runs apart. In the first game of the doubleheader, Westbrook was far from sharp. But he also didn’t get a lot of help behind him. The problem with the Cardinal defense is that it is simply ‘adequate.’ Sometimes things that aren’t recorded as “errors” is still sub-par defense. A ball that Theriot only knocks down that a better shortstop would record an out on. Tyler Greene making a poor throw to 2nd, allowing them only to get 1 out instead of the double play. And then the obvious errors: the drop balls, the missed catches, etc. We knew from the beginning that the defense would not be the best it’s ever been. And that’s why the pitching and the hitting needs to be as sharp as possible.
Ankiel getting his first plate appearance in the first inning of the first game got a nice round of appreciation applause, which was great to see. Ankiel took out a half page ad in the paper thanking them for their support. Great move, Rick.
In the second game, Jaime Garcia was again plagued by poor defense, but managed to pitch good enough to nail the win, both for himself and the team. Also in the night game was the first save opportunity since LaRussa announced that Ryan Franklin would no longer be his pitcher of choice in save situations. Mitchell Boggs got the nod and locked in the save. And all of Cardinal Nation breathed a sigh of relief.
In both games, the Cardinals continue to rake. Everyone was getting hits, even guys like Punto and Descalso. And the big guys continue to do what they’ve been doing. 23 hits among the two games is certainly not too shabby.
Two for one baseball,
The offense has been so hot lately that when it finally cooled down, I expected it to happen gradually. Instead, it went from red hot to freezing in about 30 seconds. After at least a dozen hits in the last several games, today they only mustered a total of 4.
The sad part was this was my prediction once I realized it was Carp’s turn in the rotation. The Cardinals have notoriously given Carp little to no run support in many of his starts. Yes, he got clobbered earlier this year, but for the most part he turns in very solid performances and even sometimes bordering on great.
He kept the Cardinals with the Dodgers all game long, matching Chad Billingsley 0 for 0. Finally, in the 9th inning, the Cardinals broke through. Matt Holliday’s 3rd hit (yes, that’s right, he’s hitting .441!!!) led to a run giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
After Trevor Miller failed to get the leadoff guy out, the Cardinals made a couple of bad moves.
Bad move #1 – LaRussa calls in Ryan Franklin, who has been very unsuccessful so far
this year in closing games.
Bad move #2 – Franklin is allowed to pitch to Matt Kemp.
Kemp has one previous at-bat against Franklin, also a home run. I understand LaRussa wanting to stand up for his players and that every guy is going to have bad games, but how many games does Franklin have to blow before he doesn’t have a job anymore? At least Minnesota closer Joe Nathan had the guts to go to his manager and ask for a different assignment until he got his control back.
This is not just one bad day or luck. Franklin is not getting beat on good pitches or lucky fall-in hits. He’s leaving the ball up in the zone and watching it get knocked out of the park. Only 1 converted save in 5 chances and an ERA above 11.00 is ridiculous. I dread to think how many more he would have blown if we hadn’t won our games by such huge margins.
Overall, I am ecstatic about this road trip. I expected 4-6, hoping for 5-5 and got 6-4. I don’t believe the Cardinals home record will be anywhere near as bad as it was to open the season and playing above .500 ball on the road is awesome.
The Cardinals missed an opportunity to gain a game on the Reds with their loss, but actually gained passed up the Brewers since they lost both games of their doubleheader today. So I guess it’s a good day when you can lose a game and still gain in the standings.
One team left to pass,