The St. Louis Cardinals had a grueling schedule this Labor Day weekend but one group saved the weekend from going a lot worse than it could have.
This past weekend could’ve gone very badly for the St. Louis Cardinals. With five games in 50 hours, the team could’ve gained some ground as they did but they just as easily could’ve lost ground as they played four games against the Cincinnati Reds between Saturday and Sunday and one game Monday against the Giants.
Harrison Bader‘s stellar defense and walk-off knock and Kolten Wong‘s .500 average or three triples both were big parts of the weekend and played into the two walk-offs the team had but they weren’t the biggest performers.
Who was? The starting pitching staff.
Dakota Hudson started Saturday off by pitching 7.2 innings and while he was tagged with two runs after he left the game leaving him with 4 ER on the day, it was arguably his best start. Following Hudson, Michael Wacha bounced back with a 7.0 inning start of his own allowing just three hits and two solo homers.
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On Sunday, Miles Mikolas‘ six innings of three-run ball were enough to keep the team in it as they walked off for the second straight game. The only disappointing start of the weekend was on Sunday night when Daniel Ponce de Leon went just four innings and let up three earned runs in the team’s only loss of the weekend.
In the last game on Monday, Cardinals fans were treated to vintage Adam Wainwright as the 38-year-old gave the team 7.0 scoreless innings in the final game of the marathon.
In total, the Cardinals relievers only shouldered 13.1 innings over the five games and for three of the games, rosters were expanded so the bullpen could’ve handled an expanded role, but the fact that the starters went seven or more innings in three of five starts is huge.
The rotation has been a subject of question at times this year but in the second half, they have solidified greatly. Again, the bullpen was expanded and could’ve held up the games had there been bad starts this weekend but the Cardinals needed that group to step up and they did.
At this time of year, bullpens are gassed even when they have reinforcements and every inning the relievers don’t have to pitch in is an inning they can save for the playoffs.
There was not much more the Cardinals realistically could’ve done to maximize the weekend. With that many games that quickly, it’s unrealistic to expect them to have won all five games. The weekend ended with the Cardinals 3.0 games up on the Cubs when they started 1.5, so ground was gained.
The players may be especially worn out after this weekend and there may be a recovery period coming up after such a big push, but when the team needed a big weekend, the club stepped up and the starting pitchers led that charge. The starting pitching leading the way is going to be one of the biggest and most important groups to watch down the stretch and into the playoffs.