The St. Louis Cardinals have an early opportunity to pick up some wins this week against the NL Central.
For the second time in the span of a week, the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers will face off. The Cardinals took the first series in Milwaukee two games to one, even though the Cardinals should have walked away with a series sweep. This time the series shifts to Busch Stadium where the Cards are fresh off a series loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. If the team is in search of a rebound, the Brewers are ripe for the picking.
The last few days or so have not been kind to the Brewers. Both Corey Knebel and Christian Yelich are on the DL. They have also lost four of their last five games (five of their last seven) with all losses coming against the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. To top it all off, their pitching, both starting and relief, has not been great either.
Both the Cardinals and Cubs drove home that last point in both series, getting to the Brewers’ starters early and often. There were a couple of games the Cubs made most of the Brewers’ bullpen woes, but the obvious is very clear. The Brewers pitching is far inferior to the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs.
That brings me to the series going on this week.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a really nice opportunity to pile on some wins against an injured Brewers team. They will be facing pitching they have seen before and have beat before as well. While the Brewers’ lineup is still dangerous, our starting pitching has been more than up to the task to start this season as well.
What I am trying to drive home, though, is something I talked about a couple of weeks ago in my season preview for the Cardinals. The fact the Cardinals and Brewers are playing each other THIRTEEN times in the first half of the season is nothing to sneeze at now.
Also consider who the Cardinals play after Milwaukee. The Reds sit at 2-6 in the young season and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. If the Cardinals really want to push the season along, taking care of business against the Reds is a must. The Cardinals and Reds also play each other thirteen times in the first half of the season. But what really matters is the team who the Cardinals play a week from today.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs will square off finally next Monday in Chicago with neither team taking a firm grasp on the division lead at this point. If the Cardinals can rack up some wins this week and head into Chicago with some momentum, then the series becomes that much more important.
These wins in April can and probably will be the difference between the top three teams trying to contend in the NL Central and the Wild Card spots. I’ve seen recent chatter from fans saying, “Well, it’s still early. They will be fine.” Really? Tell that to the 2016 team that missed the playoffs by a single game.
Tell that to the 2017 team that started 3-9 to begin the year and miss the playoffs by a couple of games a second year in a row. Mike Matheny and the rest of the team have to be willing to do whatever it takes to win these games now to provide some slip ups in the future, because they will happen.
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But all of that needs to start with Mike Matheny.
If he continues to misuse the bullpen and stick in complacency then this team will continue to fail him in the late innings when he needs it most. Yesterday was a winnable game, but because of over reliance on a few arms to get you though a game we end up losing a game to another Wild Card contender.
The same thing happened in Milwaukee when the Cards lost on easily one of the crazier endings I’ve seen.
Understandably the bullpen is about to get a major face lift in Greg Holland and your over reliance on arms should dwindle, but that does not excuse his mistakes prior to that.
If Holland isn’t ready yet, Matheny needs to have a better game plan than to throw Matt Bowman, Dominic Leone, and Jordan Hicks once again (in that order I might add) because he doesn’t trust anyone else.
Outside of Matheny’s boneheaded choices, the St. Louis Cardinals just need to relax at the plate and not put pressure on themselves. I’m not saying relax to the point where you don’t do anything for six innings and still expect to win. But just look at the formula they used in Milwaukee to put up some runs. Good hitting can go a long way for our starters and especially are bullpen for the time being.
Let’s see if the Cardinals can get some wins this week. Four games against Cincinnati could be crucial for momentum heading into next week.