In my first Redbird Rants Article I noted that there are several positives to look at when analyzing the Cardinals 2012 season. As the dog days of summer begin, the days are longer and hotter. The same can’t be said right now of the very cold St. Louis Cardinals.
Aside from an unlikely complete game masterpiece from Jake Westbrook, the Cardinals have been reeling, with just 3 series wins since May 9. Let’s hope that a weekend series with the Royals breathes life into their bats as well as their bullpen, because the games to follow are tough, with several divisional tilts until their next series with the Cincinnati Reds that begins on July 13. I’m very cautiously optimistic, but if the St. Louis Cardinals can somehow find a way to breathe life into the team, they might just have a chance to wrest first place away from the Reds. Again, let me stress the fact that I’m cautiously optimistic.
Where do the woes stem from? My initial thought is the middle of the St. Louis Cardinal lineup, more specifically of late, Allen Craig. I hate to say it, because he’s one of my favorite players on the team, but let’s look at the facts. Since June 8, he has just 2 RBI. In the Detroit Tigers series, he managed 1 hit in 12 at bats, while stranding an alarming 10 runners. Some say his wrist soreness is a lingering issue, and I’ve got to believe them. Just an eye test says that there’s got to be something that is bringing about the drop in batting average (from .345 June 1 to currently .311).
Hope may be on the horizon though. Both Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter were activated today. Jon Jay has had a strong 3 for 7 performance at the Triple-A club, the Memphis Redbirds. Of those 3 hits, one was a homer, and another a triple. Both will bring some added depth that will allow Allen Craig to return to 1st base, and hopefully provide a much needed rejuvenation for the Cardinal bats.
As for the pitching staff, they certainly can’t be let off the hook either. Victor Marte cost the St. Louis Cardinals the game yesterday. His unimpressive line was 15 pitches, 3 hits, 1 hit batter, a walk-off hit given up to Quintin Berry, and 1 stinging loss. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t like the image of Berry celebrating on the Busch Stadium grass. Maybe that’s enough to wake the sleeping giant, because the current ERA of the bullpen sits at 4.7! That’s totally unacceptable for any team that hopes to be playing postseason baseball come October. I’d think that a move of some sort would have to be made by management if the Cardinals hope for that headache to go away.
With Joe Kelly pitching tonight, and Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn to follow there’s hope on the horizon for this weekend’s series. If Kelly can keep his pitch count down and go a solid 5 or 6 innings, the Cardinals should take the first game. If Wainwright’s recent groove on the mound can continue, there’s no reason to think that the St. Louis Cardinals can’t also take game 2. Lynn losing should be completely out of the question, as he hadn’t allowed more than 3 earned runs in a start since mid-May before his latest 5-run outing. All that said, I still remain cautiously optimistic at the Cardinals chances to win the weekend series. The recent feel around the team seems inexplicably one of self doubt and hopelessness, but I’m hoping that with a little luck all that will turn around, and the St. Louis Cardinals can break past the .500 barrier and close out June and the first few weeks of July with a torrid pace, so that when Cincinnati Reds come knocking, the Cardinals will stand ready.
I just have to believe it can happen! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be a fan. After all, fan is short for fanatic, and I’m certainly in that number. Call me crazy, but I believe in this Cardinal team, and as long as they’re within striking distance, I’ll remain optimistic. Let’s stand by our Redbirds, and cheer them on harder than ever this weekend. They’re going to need it!