Let's go live to Kansas City:
The St. Louis Cardinals have started winning all of a sudden, taking their fourth game in a row over the Royals, who came into Monday's game hoping to gain ground on the Cleveland Indians, but instead had a few shovel handles of dirt tossed on their hopes. The final score was 10-3, so let's look at the important takeaways as the first cup of coffee is downloaded into my system.
~Michael Wacha doesn't care what his critics think-and that party includes me. He is 9-4 with a 3.90 earned run average after Tuesday's win, showing his critics that he can be effective into the hot summer months of August. On August 8th last year, Wacha gave up four runs in five innings of work in Cincinnati. After a July where he won four games and posted a 1.93 ERA, Wacha was pulled early in Milwaukee after only allowing a run, but rebounded well in Kansas City. He's thrown 116.2 innings in 21 starts so far this year, but Wacha has shown he can handle tough assignments on the road in a month that hasn't been kind to him in two years. Take it while it lasts.
~That wasn't an earthquake in the Midwest Tuesday night. It was a boulder falling off the shoulders of Jedd Gyorko after he hit a three run game sealing home run. It was the fastball monster's first long ball since the All Star Break-and the snapping of a brutal cold streak. What Cardinals fans will come to realize with Gyorko is that he isn't as good as they think he is, but he won't get as bad as some other recently demoted players. Keep the expectations modest, folks.
~Randal Grichuk was 3-20 in August before his two hit with a home run game, briefly putting to rest the whispers that the chronically streaky left fielder had come back to Earth. Players like Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty have a limited amount of time to impress before Jose Martinez swings his way to more time or Harrison Bader returns on September 1st.
~I am very impressed with Kolten Wong. Twice in 2017, he has been injured, and upon his return, Wong hasn't missed a single beat with the bat. His defense still saves runs, but his bat is quietly putting together a fine season. He is hitting .295, but it's the 19 doubles that grab my eye (that's more than doubled his 2016 total, in 83 less at bats). Wong's on base percentage of .383 nearly .60 higher than his career average, and his slugging percentage is actually over .400. Consider me impressed.
~Ever since 95 percent of St. Louis claimed he wasn't a fifth place hitter, Yadier Molina has broken bad at the plate, in a good way. He hit his 14th home run of the year Tuesday, following a two home run game last week in Milwaukee. While his social media temper tantrum wasn't ideal for a professional known for being the backbone of his clubhouse, Molina is making up for it in the best way: cranking it up on the field.
One more thing. How consistent has Tommy Pham been this season? Take away a July 30th game where he left early due to injury, Pham has reached base in all but one game since July 17th. Why pick that particular date? It made my point sound better.
Moral of the story: the Cards have used a downfall from the Chicago Cubs and complete collapse from the Brewers to get back in the race. As the pancakes are flipped this morning, the Cardinals are just 2.5 games out of first place with a record of only 57-56. How does that make sense in the Majors? It does not, but the real deal is the offensive breakout. For the third game in a row, the Cardinals scored six or more runs in an inning. Without that, there's just a man with a glove and ball on a mound waiting for help. Like a man lost at sea.
Can it keep up? I believe it can due to the strength of the schedule. Outside of two games against the Boston Red Sox next week, the Cards are facing the likes of Kansas City, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, and San Francisco. The last 22 games of the season come against the weak National League Central Division.
If the Cardinals don't make a comeback, they can only blame themselves. Strap in for a ride. This team may prove me (and several others) wrong....again.
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