The Cardinals headed into the All Star Break with a lot of positives. The bullpen had stabilized, the starting rotation pitching outstanding, and the offense coming to life. With six games against the Reds and Brewers to start the second half, momentum was building and things looking up. The team was finally getting healthy and perhaps going to begin a stretch of good baseball.
Then they went 0 for the world with RISP and lost 5 of those first 6 games. The crazy thing was the 5 total losses were by a total of 6 runs. Agonizing, particularly since the Pirates and Reds have a long streak of games against very bad teams coming up. The Cardinals missed a golden opportunity to make up some much needed ground. On the heels of that loss, I wrote the following post for I-70 baseball.
One day after I posted this article, Wainwright publicly challenged his team, stating they were severely underperforming. He felt the Cardinals a championship caliber team, playing at an unacceptable mediocre level. I echo his sentiments. I am glad someone finally stepped forward and challenged the team.
Last weekend, the Cubs came to Busch on a stretch of playing really good baseball. It became a pretty important home stand for the Cardinals at 5 games back and the Dodgers getting ready to come in for four games. Something amazing happened….the Cardinals swept the Cubs and turned the tables on the recent trend for both teams. The Cubs were the ones who went without a hit with runners in scoring position, and the Cardinals unleashed the floodgates of runs sweeping the series.
The question in my mind became, “Was the wake up call by Wainwright received by the team, and this the start of a stretch of really good baseball?” The Dodgers series loomed large, but following that is six games with the Cubs and Rockies. Perhaps the Cardinals were turning a corner and about to go on a tear.
A tear is needed because the Reds and Pirates aren’t losing. The Cardinals didn’t make up any ground over the weekend because the Pirates and Reds both swept their series as well.
Last night, the Cardinals ran into a pitcher (Billingsley) who shut them down. Joe Kelly gave us what we figured Joe Kelly would…6 innings and 2 earned runs. It wasn’t a terrible loss, but a loss nonetheless.
Is this more of the same inconsistency and inability to build momentum or a small blip against a good team? I obviously hope it’s the former. The Cardinals really need to win 2 of these next 3 against the Dodgers to not fall further back in the standings.
Interestingly, the Cardinals have stayed very quiet in the trade market. It begs the question of what is really going on behind the scenes. Is Mozeliak quietly orchestrating a big move in the final week of July? Perhaps he lacks confidence in the club’s ability to catch the Pirates and Reds and isn’t going to risk a top-tier prospect for a rental to the Wild Card play-in game ? Or maybe he thinks this team is really good enough to win as is.
We will have our answer to both the team’s response to Wainwright’s wake up call, and how Mozeliak views the strength of this roster within the next week.
These next three games are huges.