St. Louis Cardinals Streaking!


By Jake McCormick

Baseball is great because it can be so unpredictable, yet so easy to understand. Case in point: the St. Louis Cardinals and their past 18 games.

Ten days ago, the team was on the losing end of a sweep from the Brewers and had lost seven of nine games. Since that point, St. Louis did a Michael Jackson 180 and tallied a 7-2 record, including an always enjoyable sweep of the Chicago Cubs and a vindicated two out of three games against Milwaukee.

Considering the Cardinals had lost 10 out of 11 against the Brewers dating back to last year, the monkey was thrown from their backs. Now St. Louis hopes to carry that momentum over to Friday’s game against the San Francisco Giants.

Add in a healthy Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick, and the team has to feel good about leading a division rife with injuries among all contenders. Injuries are a part of the game obviously, but the number of bodies on the disabled list in the NL Central could fill a quality fantasy team. They piled up quicker than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victims in the last half-hour of “Commando,” yet the April standings still made a strong case for the Central’s place as baseball’s toughest division.albert-pujols-homerun-diamondbacks

Tony La Russa has never been a conventional manager, frequently batting the pitcher eighth in the lineup and shuffling his lineup every day like it was an NBA draft simulation. But with Albert Pujols bodyguards Ryan Ludwick, Troy Glaus, and Rick Ankiel out of the daily lineup for the past week and a half, La Russa has been forced to play half of the Cardinals’ Triple A affiliate on a regular basis. Pujols only has 2 RBIs during the Cardinals hot streak, but has been guaranteed first base over 50 percent of his at bats- making him the new Barry Bonds, minus the arrogance, backne, and custom helmet that wouldn’t fit Darth Vader.

Because most news about Glaus this year has been negative, Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak has not denied a pre-emptive sweep of the trading market for third basemen. Colorado Rockie Garrett Atkins and Cleveland Indian Mark DeRosa would at least give the team a consistent all-around player at the hot corner.

As you would expect, replacements like Colby Rasmus, Joe Thurston, and Nick Stavinoha have filled their diapers to the brim for most of last week after some surprises from the rookies, including third baseman Brian Barden’s selection as the NL Rookie of the Month in April. I’m almost expecting Chris Duncan to walk into the batter’s box in a Green Ranger costume because of his lost power this month, and Yadier Molina has, at least temporarily, regained the form that left him undrafted in the 2006 fantasy season. Although the team has scored a deadball era 3.5 runs per game in May, the Cardinals have more than a few Huggies (codeword: pitching) in hand to make sure things stay relatively clean.dave_duncan

If a team’s pitching is great, it doesn’t matter if they score less than five runs a game. St. Louis scored more runs in its 8-1 victory over Milwaukee Tuesday than it has given up in the last nine games (seven). Tuesday’s victory was all the more significant considering it was against former Cardinal Jeff Suppan, who has been the Cardinals’ Officer Tenpenny (voiced by who else? Samuel L. Jackson) in Grand Theft Auto IV: San Andreas – nearly impossible to beat.
Chris Carpenter has yet to allow an earned run in four games and Adam Wainwright looks more and more like an ace with every start. Kyle Lohse and Joel Pineiro tend to be streaky. But Lohse continues to benefit from Dave Duncan’s powers to heal the proverbial lepers of pitching, and Pineiro has not allowed a walk or home run in his last four starts.

With Pineiro on the mound tonight, and Carpenter and Wainwright slotted for the final two games against the Giants’ resident batting practice pitcher Barry Zito and an underperforming Jonathan Sanchez, the Cardinals’ buzz should carry through the weekend like a Homecoming bender. In a pitcher-friendly ballpark with two sputtering offenses, pitching should be a deciding factor, and on paper the Cardinals can at least guarantee the computer simulations will fall in their favor.