What does one series win mean for a team? For the Cardinals, it was the difference between being 2 games out today or 4 games out of first place. It was premature for any Cardinals fan to think the Pirates would lay down after being outlasted by the Birds on Tuesday night 4-3. Francisco Liriano came out last night and shut the team down on 94 pitches, scattered a few hits and made short work of our team. The Pirates were back to 3 games up and took a 4-0 lead today early on. How would the Cardinals react?
The crazy thing about the Rogues in red is that they are so streaky and can fall asleep at the wheel so easily. The Cardinals can look so confounded by a pitcher after seemingly getting back on track. Liriano is so pushover but seeing the team muster zero energy against him was frustrating for any Cards fan with a pulse. Losing is one thing. Ghost walking is quite another. I remember the first series of the season where the Cards were playing San Francisco and Matt Cain shut them down the first two times through the order. We were losing and on our way to a shutout. Suddenly, we scored 9 times in the 6th inning and routed the Giants and ended up beating Cain again later in the year. That’s our offense in a nutshell. Power lacking, no need to steal, magnificent with RISP but streaky as a plate of Mexican food’s durability to cold temperatures.
We are down yet not out. We are hitless and suddenly, like today, get 5 runs on 6 hits off A.J. Burnett, erase a 4-0 lead and take a lead. Following the Cards is as rough as it gets. We know this team will compete every single year. We know they will dominate early on, sputter in June, nearly collapse in August and finally find their footing. Heading into tomorrow action’s against the Cubs on August 16th, is that finally the time this team finds their feet and makes that push. Let’s look at the schedule.
A six game road trip against The Cubs and Brewers. Two painfully bad teams looking to play spoiler. Jake Westbrook takes the mound tomorrow for the first time in 9 days to find his sinker and right his own ship.
Next, a pivotal home stand against the Braves(revenge) and the suddenly closing in on the division lead Reds, three games apiece. The Cardinals have been good at home lately and need to keep that up. The Dodgers and Cubs series losses withstanding, the second half has seen this team make Busch a comfort and not a hazard.
The end of the month closes with a road trip through Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. CRUCIAL games at the start of the final push. We come home and face the Pirates at BUSCH for the last three times in 2013. These are nine games that can’t be wasted.
After the Bucs leave, we get the Brewers here for 3 and the Seattle Mariners for 3 games to finish interleague action. Yes, we may face Mr. Felix. Knowing our ability against great RH pitchers, we will shell him for 5 runs.
The last road trip of the season takes us to Colorado for a potentially hazardous 4 game set in the middle of the month and finally to Milwaukee one more time. We got 9 games with the rough Brewers who don’t have Ryan Braun anymore and are very beatable.
The season comes to an end with the Nationals and Cubs at home for three apiece. Two under .500 teams that will be hungry to spoil. Watch out.
The last 40 games won’t be easy but there are a lot of matches against less than .500 clubs which overall the Cards thrive on this season. The Braves, Reds, and Pirates won’t be easy at all but hopefully with the callups, renewed energy and maybe a waiver deal in there somewhere, the Cards will be ready to finally put their foot down and roll. This team didn’t spend three months with the best record in baseball for no reason. We don’t lead the Majors in run differential for no reason. We don’t own the most runs scored, third best rotation ERA and best batting average in the NL for no reason. We are strong, formidable and now ready to push.
Beating the Pirates with two walkoff wins was huge for a number of reasons. Mainly, it gave this team revenge for a horrible five game series in Pittsburgh that upended the Cards and rerouted their season. If we lose this series or get swept here, the rest of the season looks pretty dim. You have to take advantage of head to head battles because of the two game swing of each contest. The Cards didn’t wilt and grabbed their two biggest comeback wins of the season. Today, down 4-0, in the 5th, the game looked sealed until we started hitting. The one thing you can count on with this 2013 team at the plate is timely hitting.