Any Way They Come


At this point, Cards fans will take the wins any way they come. With exactly one month of baseball remaining in the 2011 season, a win is a win for the St. Louis Cardinals. It may not be pretty (it often isn’t in baseball), but as long as the Cardinals come away with a victory over the Brewers at the end of the day, who cares about how exactly they are able to do so. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, this Cards team has impressed me so far after two games at Miller Park to end the month of August.

First, Edwin Jackson got things started with a stellar outing in game one. Jackson put together his best performance in a Cardinals uniform since coming over at the trade deadline, going seven strong innings while allowing just one run and six hits. He was able to locate both his fastball and slider with precision from start to finish, contributing to the fact that he did not allow a single walk. After an error-filled two-run fifth inning in which Jackson collected his first RBI of the year, the Cards bullpen took it from there. Milwaukee managed to get two runners on base with no outs, but Fernando Salas induced a double play to close it out.

While game two featured significantly more scoring, the end result was the same. Rafael Furcal led off the game with a home run, and Albert Pujols went deep with a solo shot of his own two batters later. After Randy Wolf hit the first two batters he faced in the fourth inning, the Cardinals made some seemingly awful base running mistakes on a Yadier Molina hit. This left the bases loaded for pitcher Jake Westbrook, who sat on a first-pitch fastball and drove a grand slam down the left field line for the first homer of his career. This makes St. Louis the only team in MLB history to have a pitcher hit a grand slam in three consecutive seasons (Chris Carpenter 2009, Brad Penny 2010). Although Westbrook would only last five innings, the bullpen delivered with four scoreless frames to bring home another St. Louis win.

Who says the Cards’ starting pitchers can’t help their own cause by being the main source of run production in key games? Look, the Cardinals have had somewhat of an identity crisis over the course of the 2011 campaign, but now it’s time to win at all costs. This team will need to manufacture runs and display the ability to win in a variety of ways to be successful down the stretch. So far, so good.

Here’s manager Tony La Russa’s take on the situation:

"We’ve established we’re going to tough out the season. This month, there were a couple of periods there it was discouraging because Milwaukee couldn’t lose and we were mugging games. Our team needs to generate a lot of wins. If we win a lot of games, a couple of weeks from now, we can get excited."

The Redbirds have now won five of their last six games and are officially on a winning streak for the first time since the first week of August. The Brewers, on the other hand, will be looking to avoid being swept at home for the first time this year. Something’s got to give in Thursday’s third and final game of the series. All of the sudden, the gap between Milwaukee and St. Louis in the NL Central is down to 8.5 games. There is a lot of work to be done, but our Cards are showing signs of life, which has to be encouraging.